In what officials are calling the worst assault to ever target Pakistan's Christian minority, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside a church in northwest Pakistan Sunday, killing dozens and injuring over a hundred.
At least 72 people, including 34 women and 7 children, were killed in the explosion that happened at around 11 a.m. local time outside All Saints Church — the oldest Christian church in Peshawar — as worshipers were leaving services. The attack wounded at least 120 others, a top health official said, reportedly taxing the limited resources of the local hospital.
In a statement released by the United Nations Sunday, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he "is deeply concerned about the repeated acts of blind violence against religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan," adding also that "these acts of terror cannot be justified by any cause."
In response to the attack, the bishop in Peshawar announced a three-day mourning period, and protests erupted in various cities around the country, including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, and Multan. Christians — who make up only 1 to 2 percent of Pakistan’s total population — blocked streets and burned tires, blaming the government for failing to protect its religious minority.
“If the government shows will, it can control this terrorism,” Hemphray said. “We have been asking authorities to enhance security, but they haven't paid any heed.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, saying: “The terrorists have no religion and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions."“Such cruel acts of terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists,” he added.
A militant group associated with the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the explosions, and threatened similar assaults if the U.S. continues its drone strikes in Pakistan.
“We will continue our attacks till the drone strikes are stopped,” said the commander of the group.
The U.S. has been targeting Taliban militants in Pakistan via missiles fired from unmanned drones, and on Sunday, a drone reportedly fired four missiles onto the border of north and south Waziristan. Between 2004 and 2012, at least 474 civilian deaths — including those of over 100 children — were caused by CIA drones in Pakistan, according to a study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.