One person was killed and two policemen injured after an early morning attack on a Christian colony near the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Four suicide bombers carrying automatic weapons were waiting at the gate to the colony, which was locked every night. When Samuel Masih, 55, opened the gate on his way to work at around 5.30am, they shot and killed him. The policemen were injured as they fought off the attackers, who all died.
“The terrorists had water and food with them, which shows that they had planned a massacre on a large scale, but God has been kind to save the community,” parliamentarian Fredrick Azeem Ghauri told World Watch Monitor. “One suicide bomber entered an under-construction house and blew himself up. Luckily there was no-one there, so everyone remained safe.”
The Church of Pakistan’s Diocese of Peshawar released a statement, calling Masih a “brave man – indeed a hero and a martyr, who saved many lives” by raising the alarm.
The Rt. Revd. Humphrey S. Peters condemned the “brutal act of terrorism against the Christian community”.
Fr. Yunis Riaz, priest of the St. Michael Church inside the colony, told Fides: “People are afraid; we are mourning Samuel’s death. About 30 Christian families live in the colony … They are simple people, most of them work as cleaners in public offices. They are people with a strong faith: we will overcome this.
“The Taliban indiscriminately hit civilian and military targets, schools and families: they want to destroy peace and have visibility, threatening institutions. We will remain united in protecting social and religious peace. As Christians, we will do our part, praying and working peacefully, building peace in our daily lives every day.”
The Warsak Dam colony, where the attack took place, twelve miles outside Peshawar, is not far from the Army Public School, where 141 people, including 132 students, were killed after a Dec. 2014 attack. The residents have been advised to remain in their homes.
An Islamist group linked to the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for this the attack, saying it was a response to recent Army claims that it has pushed back terrorist violence. Unconfirmed reports said the group had intended to attack Army “targets”, but ended up moving to the Christian Colony instead.
On Easter Sunday this year, suicide bombers from the same group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, attacked a park in Lahore as Christian families celebrated after church services. At least 74 died, including 29 children: the group said it had “targeted Christians celebrating Easter”.
This attack also comes just three weeks before the third anniversary (on 22 September) of an attack by twin suicide bombers on All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, in which at least 96 died, including many children. The two bombers attacked as families were leaving the church service and Sunday school.
The latest attack may also have been a reaction to the recent Pakistan Supreme Court decision to reject the appeals of 16 people sentenced to death for terrorism, two of whom are believed to have been involved in the 2014 Army Public School bombing.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber has killed at least 12 people and injured more than 50 in an attack on a court in Mardan, 60km east of Peshawar. A BBC reporter in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the local province, said that the same Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility. It said that the Pakistani courts, derived from the British colonial legal system, are “un-Islamic”.