Deadly blasts hit Pakistan churches in Lahore

Deadly blasts hit Pakistan churches in Lahore

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Two bomb blasts have killed at least 10 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.At least 50 people were reportedly hurt in the explosions at the Catholic church and Christ Church in the city’s Youhanabad area.Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with large crowds already in the area to attend Sunday mass.Pakistan’s Christian community has often been targeted by militants.An offshoot of the Pakistan Taliban, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, has said it carried out the attack.Witnesses say suicide bombers were responsible for the explosions but police have not confirmed this.The bombers are said to have detonated their explosives at the gates of the churches. Local media say the death toll has reached 14.A large crowd gathered at the scene of the blasts, protesting about the lack of security.The crowd also attacked two men it accused of involvement in the explosions, killing both of them.Photographs from the scene showed a crowd setting the men’s bodies alight.Protesters carrying sticks blocked Lahore’s Ferozepur Road. Local television pictures showed a bus station being attacked.Amir Masih, a witness quoted by Reuters news agency, said he had heard an explosion near one of the churches.”I rushed towards the spot and saw the security guard scuffle with a man who was trying to enter the church,” he said.The man blew himself up after failing to enter the church, Mr Masih told Reuters.Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain have condemned the latest bombings.Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, the chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a rights group, said the Lahore attacks highlighted the government’s failure to protect minorities.Pakistan’s military last year began an offensive against militant bases in the mountainous north-west, bordering Afghanistan. Offshoots of the Pakistani Taliban have warned of attacks in response.However, Lahore, the capital of the densely populated Punjab province, has largely escaped militant violence and is seen as a relatively peaceful city.At least 80 people were killed by bombers at a church in the Pakistani city of Peshawar in 2013, in what is thought to be the deadliest ever attack on the country’s Christians.Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

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