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Pakistan's crackdown continues after suicide attack

Pakistani authorities have made arrests while Christians come to terms with the violence

Pakistan's crackdown continues after suicide attack
Houses of a local Christian neighborhood at the Warsak Christian neighborhood after it was attacked by suspected Taliban bombers Sept. 2 in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry)

Pakistani security forces have rounded up four men suspected of facilitating the Sept. 2 suicide attacks on a Christian neighborhood and a district court in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, northwestern Pakistan.

Samuel Masih, 50, was killed and two Muslim security guards were injured when suspected Taliban bombers raided the settlement, home to 150 Christian families. Four houses were damaged in the attack at Warsak, the Christian neighborhood.

Army troops and police rushed to the spot after initial resistance from the community’s private guards. Three bombers were shot dead and one blew himself up, according to Pakistani army sources. 

In the second attack some hours later, at least 10 people including police and lawyers were killed and scores of others were injured in a suicide blast in the Mardan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Geo TV, a Pakistani news channel, quoting an official source, said that police have arrested four suspects during an operation in the Corona area of Mohmand Agency bordering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The suspects are accused of facilitating the attackers.

Shafqat Malik, Chief of the Bomb Disposal Unit, said that terrorists had "telephonic contact" with neighboring Afghanistan and were carrying 24 kilograms of explosive material in their jackets. He claimed that similar bombs were used in a hospital raid in Quetta last month where 70 people, including lawyers and journalists, were killed and over 100 others injured.

"Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province has faced multiple terrorists attack over the past 15 years. The National Commission for Justice and Peace and Christian community stand firmly with the people there in their hour of need," said Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad and Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the commission, in a joint statement.

Their statement also lauded the efforts of security agencies. "The prompt response by the law enforcement and security agencies saved hundreds of lives in the Christian colony," it said.

Pastor Shahzad Sindhu, himself a survivor, joined Anglican Bishop Earnest Jacob and a Catholic priest in prayer for the community. Sindhu was heading for his church when he first heard the shooting. "I came out and asked residents to stay inside their houses. The guards asked me to hide inside and, as I slammed the gate, a burst of bullets pierced our wall," he told ucanews.com.

"People cannot believe four bombers only killed one man, it's a miracle," he said. "We tell our children to pray before leaving for school. Many are psychologically affected. Two children found a piece of skull, with burnt hairs, hanging on a tree this morning."

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Anthony John, a student of grade three, said his parents turned off the lights when the shooting started. "My father took out his pistol and kept looking outside through the door; we were scared," he said. "I have learned to hide under my desk."

Bishop Jacob held a thanksgiving prayer Sept. 4 at the Christian neighborhood's church amid tight security. "Our sufferings continue," he said. "The government will reconstruct the damaged houses and we have asked officials to thin out the surrounding jungle and built pickets."

"The sacrifice of the Catholic man saved everybody," he said. "We also thank the Muslim security guards for fighting against the Taliban assault for 40 minutes which provided enough time for the arrival of armed forces."

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