Five killed, 42 hurt in Capital church attack Safiullah Gul, Pakistan
A horrific grenade attack on the Protestant International Church in the high-security diplomatic enclave of the Pakistani federal capital city of Islamabad on Sunday left at least five people dead and more than 40 wounded. Included among the dead were the wife and a teen-aged daughter of an American diplomat, who himself was injured in the assault.
Two unidentified terrorists lobbed six grenades into the church’s assembly hall packed with Sunday worshippers numbering about 70, eye-witnesses and security officials said, adding that a Pakistani, an Afghan and an Iraqi were among fatalities resulting from the attack that came in the middle of the sermon.
The Capital Police chief, Nasir Durrani, told reporters the grenade attack took place at about 10.50 a.m. local time and most of the victims were foreign nationals, who were attending the Sunday service. The injured, including 10 Americans, a dozen Pakistanis, five Iranians, one Iraqi, one Ethiopian, one German, were rushed to various Capital hospitals. Slightly hurt, the wife and daughter of the Sri Lanka high commissioner were discharged from a hospital here after being administered first aid. Two of the four grenades went off immediately, killing the five people and wounding more than 45 worshippers. Police had recovered two live hand-grenades from the church’s assembly hall, the police chief told a questioner. “We are in the process of ascertaining the make and brand of the grenades,” Durrani said.
The capital police chief claimed: “According to one version, a man of local appearance entered the church and threw hand grenades, while another version is that a second man came in through a different door and also threw grenades. People of different nationalities were inside the Church. They were up to 70 in number.
Denouncing the assault as a dastardly act, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf voiced profound shock at the loss of lives and ordered an immediate inquiry. He roundly condemned the incident as a ghastly act of terrorism, resolving to bring the assailants to justice.
The US embassy in the federal capital, meanwhile, confirmed that two American citizens were killed. A top security official insisted that an American diplomat’s spouse Dr Christy and their 17-year-old daughter Barbra were among the dead. Reeba Edwards, another foreigner, and Afghan national Anwar Bahzad were also killed in the explosions.
A doctor at Islamabad's Polyclinic Hospital said six of the 20 foreigners, brought to the hospital for medical treatment, were in critical condition. On receiving information, Islamabad police and other administration officials reached the church and took the injured to Federal Government Services Hospital, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and Shifa International Hospital.
Police cordoned off the area around the church but bloodstains, broken glass and splintered wood could be seen on the front steps. In addition to civilian security agencies, military contingents were also deployed in the diplomatic enclave.
Security arrangements were beefed up throughout the city after the attack and all vehicles entering the federal capital through various points were being thoroughly checked. Most worshippers dived for cover as five or six explosions ripped through the church. Police said there were two attackers. “I saw a fellow throwing some grenades," said an elderly German woman wearing a white scarf flecked with blood who gave her name as Jutta. “Praise God I was spared but others were seriously injured. It was havoc.”
At one hospital, foreign nationals were wheeled in on trolleys, their limbs swathed in emergency dressings and clothes drenched in blood. Nick Parham, a Briton who works for the Tearfund aid agency, told Reuters he saw one attacker at close range shortly after the first blast. "One chap came down the aisle a couple of feet away from me. He had a belt on with a whole load of what looked like British army smoke grenades or home-made grenades," Parham said.
Parham said he went to hospital with six other people in an army truck. One woman in her mid-20s had serious internal injuries and died shortly after arriving at hospital, he said. Law Minister Khalid Ranjha said the attack was "certainly a message" and may have been carried out "to spoil our relations with our foreign friends. It's a highly deplorable attempt to spoil our relations with foreign countries. Choosing this place is meant to embarrass the government.”
After the attack, dozens of police and soldiers surrounded the Protestant International Church located in a heavily guarded diplomatic enclave about a half-mile from the US Embassy. Ambulances rushed to the scene and rescuers scrambled to help the injured.