September 22, 2013

Suicide attack on Pakistani church kills 75 people

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

The bishop in Peshawar, Sarfarz Hemphray, announced a three-day mourning period in response to the church attack and blamed the government and security agencies for failing to protect the country's Christians.

"If the government shows will, it can control this terrorism," said Hemphray. "We have been asking authorities to enhance security, but they haven't paid any heed."

Hundreds of Christians burned tires in the street in the southern city of Karachi to protest the bombing.

"Although the government claims they are with minorities, we are being victimized," said one of the protesters, Tariq Masih. "We need justice."

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack in a statement sent to reporters, saying, "The terrorists have no religion and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions."

"Such cruel acts of terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists," he said.

Islamic militants have carried out dozens of attacks across the country since Sharif took office in June, even though he has made clear that he believes a peace deal with one of the largest groups, the Pakistani Taliban, is the best way to tamp down violence in the country.

Pakistan's major political parties endorsed Sharif's call for negotiations earlier this month. But the Taliban have said the government must release militant prisoners and begin pulling troops out of the northwest tribal region that serves as their sanctuary before they will begin talks.

There are many critics of peace talks, who point out that past deals with the Taliban have fallen apart and simply given the militants time to regroup. Supporters say negotiations are the only way forward since military operations against the Taliban in the tribal region have failed to subdue them.

The U.S. has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan take stronger action against Islamic militants in the country, especially members of the Afghan Taliban who use the nation as a base to carry out cross-border attacks on American troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has carried out several hundred drone attacks against Taliban militants and their allies in Pakistan's tribal region. The attack on Sunday took place in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for militants in the country, said Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistani officials regularly decry the drone attacks as a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the government is known to have secretly supported some of the strikes in the past, especially ones that have targeted Pakistani Taliban militants at war with the state.

The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are allies but have focused their fight on opposite sides of the border.

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