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Pakistan

POLICE KILL SUSPECT IN BAHAWALPUR CHURCH MASSACRE

Updated: March 14, 2002 05:00 PM GMT
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A suspect in the massacre of 15 Christians in Pakistan was killed during a police pursuit, drawing mixed reactions from Church and civic officials.

Shakil Anwar, who police claim was involved in the Oct. 28 killing of Protestant churchgoers in Bahawalpur town, was shot dead March 11 when the suspect allegedly tried to run away from police trying to capture him.

Anwar, 26, a member of Lashkar-I-Jangvi, a banned Muslim militant group, was wanted for at least 38 other murders and carried a 1.5 million rupee (US$25,000) reward on his head, according to media reports.

Police reportedly received information of Anwar´s arrival in Bahawalpur, 500 kilometers south of Islamabad, and tried to arrest him.

While some Christians welcomed the vigilance of the police, others like advocate Javaid Raza expressed concern, saying, "It is only the police who claim that Anwar was involved in the Christians´ killings. The eyewitness did not recognize him, while police insisted it was him."

"We are still demanding that the government arrest the real culprits and ensure justice," added the minority district councilor of Bahawalpur.

The police move, he said, might be intended only to pacify Christians who have been demanding the arrest of the culprits.

Dominican Father Rocus Patras, parish priest of Bahawalpur, expressed appreciation for the government´s "keen interest" to arrest the suspects.

Assistant parish priest Dominican Father Rehmat Raja told UCA News, "We hope the police will soon catch other culprits."

He credited Khalid Maqbool and Malik Asif Hayat, respectively governor and police inspector general in Punjab, for their "personal interest" in apprehending the killers.

Sixteen people, including a Muslim policeman, were killed Oct. 28 when gunmen opened fire during a Protestant service at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Bahawalpur.

The Catholic parish has shared its facilities with local Protestants for more than 25 years.

END

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