|An injured woman is carried to hospital after the attack at the Peshawar church. (AFP)
Peshawar, Sept. 22: A suicide attack on a historic Christian church in Pakistan killed at least 75 people today in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian minority in the country for years.
The attack occurred as worshippers left the All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, following a service on Sunday morning.
The All Saints Church is one of the oldest in Peshawar and was built during the British colonial era. It is at Kohati Gate in the city’s old quarter, where numerous militant attacks have occurred in recent years, mostly targeting Muslims.
The Pakistan Ulema Council, the largest clerical body, condemned the blast, saying that it was “standing with our Christian brothers in this tragedy”. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the attack.
Up to 600 worshippers had attended the service, and were leaving for a distribution of free food on the lawn outside, when two explosions ripped through the crowd.
The death toll continued to rise as rescue workers sifted through the damaged church property, said Hamid Ullah, a rescue worker with Al Khidmat Foundation, a rescue service operated by the Jamaat-e-Islami political party.
Such attacks are mostly orchestrated by Sunni extremist militant groups, although some have also been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
The attack coincides with efforts by Prime Minister Sharif to initiate peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, aimed at ending a decade of violence.
Opposition politicians criticised the provincial government, led by Imran Khan’s party, for failing to send a senior minister to the scene.