Car Bomb Outside Pakistani Church Injures 15

( [email protected] ) Jan 16, 2004 12:43 PM EST

KARACHI, Pakistan – Fifteen people were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside an Anglican cathedral in Pakistan's biggest city, Thursday, January 15.

Two bombs exploded while police were investigating an anonymous phone call that said the Pakistan Christian Bible Society would be targeted. Assailants in a car lobbed the first bomb at police; the second bomb exploded in a stolen parked car, fifteen minutes later.

"We were investigating the first explosion when the second explosion occurred. It was a sudden and huge explosion," said Mohammed Iqbal, a deputy superintendent of the Rangers, a paramilitary force from his hospital bed.

The blast in Karachi was the first attack on a Christian target in Pakistan in more than a year. The wounded included two Christians as well as six paramilitary soldiers.

Shahbaz Bhatti, the head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, said the attack had raised concerns across the country.

"This terrorist act has increased the sense of insecurity among Christians," he said. "These people are hell bent on creating anarchy in the country."

Police have released sketches of two male suspects based on a witness account.

"We are chasing all leads, including the groups' involvement," provincial police chief Syed Kamal Shah said. "But we certainly can't jump to conclusions."

Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed blamed Islamic militants for the attacks.

"The noose is tightening around them therefore they are carrying out these activities," he said.

Security was tightened in Karachi after the attack, with para-military troops stationed outside churches and stepped up police patrols in minority Christian neighborhoods.

But Alexander John Malick, Bishop of Lahore and chairman of the Pakistan Bible Society, told a news conference Christians needed better protection.

"We are not at all satisfied with the security arrangements of Christian institutions and other areas in Karachi and we feel more steps should be taken to make those areas safer," he said.

"We condemn all such attacks on religious institutions and consider it a general act of terrorism."

The last attack against Christians in Pakistan was on September 2002, where gunmen burst into a Christian society called the “Institute of Peace and Justice” and shot the seven people inside execution style. In June 2002, a suicide bomber blew up a truck in front of the U.S. Consulate, killing 14 Pakistanis. The attack came a month after another suicide attack outside a hotel that killed 11 French engineers.

"Initial investigations suggest it was a fertilizer bomb very much similar to what was used in the U.S consulate attack," said the officer, who declined to be identified.