A bishop in Quetta, Pakistan, has praised the country’s “truly heroic” security services saying that had they not been so quick and decisive the death toll in Sunday’s attack at a packed Methodist church could have run into hundreds. Describing how the police and army were on the scene in Quetta “in less than five minutes”, Bishop Victor Gnanapragasam said the security services killed one of the jihadi bombers outside the church and injured the other as he approached the main entrance, where he detonated his suicide vest.
Bishop Gnanapragasam’s comments to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need came just after he attended funerals of several of the eight people reportedly killed in the blast. Saying that at least 45 were injured, the bishop spoke of the pain and grief of the Christian community, adding that a number of the 30 still in hospital were in a critical condition.
Amid reports that nearly 400 worshippers were at the church, he said many lives had been saved by the security services, adding: “The police and the army frontier corps were truly heroic. They got to the church in less than five minutes.
“One of them was wounded as he tried to stop the suicide bombers.”
Bishop Gnanapragasam described visiting the wounded in hospital, including an 18-month-old boy who he said was covered in bandages from head to foot. He said that one man had a punctured lung and was unable to attend the funeral of his wife killed in the attac”The people are very frightened. We have had a lot of people crying. We have done our very best to console them.”
The bishop added: “All day, I have been asking myself: ‘What do the attackers think they can achieve by killing innocent people?'”
He said a week ago a warning had been issued about a possible attack against Christians but that the likely target was thought to be local Christian schools and other institutes rather than churches.
Describing a massive security build-up in the wake of the attack, the bishop said churches were being advised to bring forward Christmas Midnight Mass services to earlier in the evening. He went on to say that police were calling on local Christians to identify people entering churches over Christmas as part of a security drive to keep extremists out.
He called on people to pray for the dead, the wounded and their loved ones. “We need your prayers, not just at Christmas time, but all year round because the risk is always there.”