At least eight people were killed and 44 injured in a suicide attack during Sunday prayers at the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Balochistan’s Quetta city, Geo News reported.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti confirmed the attack at the church, which is located in a high-security area of the city, Pakistan Today reported. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
Bugti told Geo News that the militants had weapons. “It seems they wanted to take hostages inside the church. The police and guards present stopped this from happening,” he said. More than 200 people were at the church for the service when the attack took place.
In a post on Twitter, Bugti said the security forces took 16 minutes to complete the operation against the attackers. “Four suicide attackers struck during church service,” Bugti said, according to Pakistan Today. One of the attackers detonated a suicide vest inside the church while security forces shot dead a second attacker near the church entrance, he said.
At least two attackers escaped the scene, police official Abdur Razaq Cheema told Reuters.
Provincial police chief Moazzam Jah said the government had put the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on high alert, as Christian places of worship are often targeted by Islamist extremist ahead of Christmas.
Emergency has been imposed in all hospitals across Quetta to deal with the number of people injured. “All doctors and paramedic staff shall be vigilant and use all available resources to give maximum healthcare facilities to the injured ones,” an official statement said, according to The Express Tribune.
Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province, has been the target of several attacks by separatists in the last few months. In November, a suicide attack targeting paramilitary soldiers killed at least four people and wounded 15.