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Christians protest deadly church bombings

23 September 2013, 11:30

Peshawar - Angry Pakistani Christians on Monday denounced the deadliest attack ever in this country against members of their faith as the death toll from the church bombings climbed overnight to 81.

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers outside a historic church in north-western Pakistan.

The attack on the All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar, which also wounded over 140 people, occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn.

A wing of the Pakistani Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying they would continue to target non-Muslims until the US stops drone attacks in the remote tribal region of Pakistan.

The bombings also raised new questions about the Pakistani government's push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.

The death toll on Monday climbed to 81, after three more of the wounded in Peshawar died overnight, according to police official Noor Khan.

Angry Christians blocked roads around the country to protest the bombings. On one of the main roads coming into the capital of Islamabad, demonstrators burned tires and demanded government protection for the members of the Christian minority.

Missionary schools around the country would be closed for three days, said Christian leader Nasir Gill.

Churches and other places important to the Christian community in Peshawar have been given extra security, said Khan, the police official.

Many churches, as well as mosques and other religious institutions, already receive some type of police protection although many Christians say that is too little. A police officer who was supposed to be protecting the church where the suicide bombers attacked on Sunday was killed in the incident.

Christians are a minority in Pakistan, where roughly 96% of the country's 180 million people are Muslim. The rest belong to other religions, including Christianity. Christians have often been attacked by Sunni Muslim militants, who view them as enemies of Islam because of their faith.

Christians are also in a precarious position in Pakistan. While many Pakistanis condemned the Sunday bombings, Christians have often faced discrimination across the country.

They often find it difficult to get access to education or better jobs and are known for having to contend for menial labour such as garbage collecting or street cleaning.

- AP


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