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Six detained over Pakistan church attack

Six detained over Pakistan church attack

Author: Staff and wires
Publication: CNN News
Date: December 27, 2002
URL: http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/south/12/26/pakistan.church/

Pakistani police have detained at least six people, including a radical Muslim cleric, in connection with a Christmas Day attack on a church that killed three girls and wounded 14 others.

The Protestant church in Chianwala, near the town of Daska, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Lahore was holding a special Christmas Day service for women and children when at least one grenade was hurled through an open front door by two attackers.

The six under detention are suspected of having links to Jaish-e Mohammed, a radical Kashmiri militant group that has been banned by Pakistan's government.

Police detained the cleric, Mohammed Afzal, on Wednesday evening for making hateful comments at a mosque located near the site of the grenade attack.

His son Attaullah was taken into custody on Thursday morning, Mohammed Riaz, a Daska police spokesman said.

'Attack Christians'

Afzal reportedly said "it is the duty of every good Muslim to kill Christians," during a sermon at the mosque three days prior to the attack, a local police officer, Nazir Yaqub, told The Associated Press news agency.

"Afzal told people,'You should attack Christians and not even have food until you have seen their dead bodies," Yaqub told AP.

The attackers, who according to witnesses wore burqas, escaped after the attack, an Interior Ministry spokesman, Iftikhar Ahmad, told AP. It was not known whether the attackers were women, or men disguised as women.

Malik Iqbal, a deputy inspector general of Gujranwala police, said no one had claimed responsibility for the attack on the one-room building. It occurred around 8:30 p.m. local time at a service attended by a few dozen people.

Security

Security had been tightened for services at the Protestant church earlier in the day, but local authorities said they were not aware of the evening service.

About 2,500 people gathered on Thursday for a memorial service for the girls, aged 6, 10 and 15.

There have been a number of other attacks against Christian institutions in Pakistan in recent months in protest against Pakistan's support of the U.S. war on terrorism.

Christians, Hindus and other religions make up about three percent of Muslim- majority Pakistan's 140 million people.

(Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-har Quraishi, producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi and The Associated Press contributed to this report)
 


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