Christians across Pakistan turn to violent protest against attacks on two churches in which at least 14 people were killed and around 80 wounded. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Enraged Christians on Sunday (March 15) took to the streets in several parts of Pakistan to protest against explosions at two churches earlier in the day. Bombs outside the two churches in Lahore killed 14 people and wounded nearly 80 during Sunday services, and witnesses said quick action by a security guard prevented many more deaths. A Pakistani Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility. The blasts went off minutes apart in a majority Christian suburb of the eastern city. Police said it seemed they targeted the two churches, one Catholic and one Protestant, that are very close to each other. One Pakistani official put the death toll at 15. "In this unpleasant incident, 15 people have died so far, and around 76 are injured. Some influential persons were also injured," a senior local government official, Captain Mohammad Usman Younis told reporters. An unidentified church official said there had been no specific alert or warning about the attack. "There was security here. If there had been no security arrangements, the damage would have been greater. However, there was no specific (security) alert," he said. As news of the attack spread, large crowds of incensed Christians took to the streets in protest in several parts of Pakistan. In a blood-curdling show of brutality, an angry crowd in Lahore attacked two men it accused of involvement in the explosions, killing both of them with sticks. The bludgeoned bodies were then set alight at a street corner. Still not satisfied, the crowd dragged the charred bodies through the streets and strung them up at the metro station which had been vandalized by protesters earlier on. Protesters carrying sticks blocked a main road in Lahore and attacked vehicles. They also smashed shops and attacked the Metro station. Police and several politicians were chased from the scene, residents said. Around 200 Christians rallied in the port city of Karachi, protesting about the lack of security at their places of worship.. "Our appeal to the government is that these terrorists should be reined in. Why are they not being brought under control?" said Salamat Khokhar, a Christian businessman from the teeming city. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain condemned the attacks on the churches in Lahore and directed the authorities concerned for provision of best medical facilities to the injured. In a message to the Christian community, Sharif said "the government considered this unfortunate incident as an attack on the state of Pakistan." Islamist militants in Pakistan have attacked Christians and other religious minorities often over the last decade or more. Many Christians, who make up less than two percent of Pakistan's population of more than 180 million, accuse the government of doing little to protect them, saying politicians are quick to offer condolences after an attack but slow to act to improve security. At least 80 worshippers were killed in an explosion at a church in the Pakistani city of Peshawar in 2013, in what is believed to be the deadliest ever attack on the country's Christians.