Multiple casualties in Pakistan Methodist church attack

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Two suicide bombers killed nine people and wounded more than 50 in a Sunday attack on a church in the Pakistan city of Quetta just over a week before Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus worldwide.

Initial reports had described the church as Catholic.

Provincial and security officials repeatedly stressed that if the attackers had managed to breach the church's doors, the death toll could have been much higher.

Officials said police, deployed near the gate and on the roof, intercepted and shot dead one attacker outside the church before he could detonate his bomb.

The two suicide bombers charged police guards outside the church, triggering a gun battle.

Balochistan Inspector General Police (IGP) Moazzam Ansari confirmed to media that 400 people were present inside the church at the time of the attack and a major tragedy was avoided due to the quick response of security forces.

It was later revealed the second terrorist had 15 kilogrammes of explosive material strapped to him.

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He added a detonator was recovered from the crime scene along with a hand grenade which, if exploded, could have caused heavy damage.

Pakistani Christians have been the target of several attacks in recent years, Reuters reported.

"God Forbid, if the terrorists had succeeded in their plans more than 400 precious lives would have been at stake", Bugti wrote on Twitter.

Their two accomplices fled the scene during the exchange of fire.

The minister said training programs are being launched to strengthen police and that there is a need to boost morale of the forces in order to get fruitful outcomes. "I didn't see the attackers because I was trying to save my kids. We will not allow this devastating act weaken our faith, our unity, and our common work for peace and justice in the world", he said in a statement. "Then there was shooting". No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Another 10 women and children were among those wounded.

An emergency has been declared in all public hospitals in Quetta.

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Another police official, Abdur Razaq Cheema, said two other attackers escaped.

Christian political and religious leaders condemned the attack and urged prayer, while also calling on the government to provide maximum security to churches across the country for Christmas services next week.

He said the whole nation was united in the fight against terrorism and had the determination to confront it. "My prayers go to the victims' families and for the speedy recovery of the injured", Khan tweeted. An FIR of the incident has also been registered against unidentified terrorists.

People attending the church were rescued by the police.

Bugti said law enforcement agencies took about 16 minutes to complete their operation.

Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal condemned the terror attack, saying Pakistan's resolve against terrorism can not be deterred by these cowardly acts of terrorists. We are not afraid of terrorists and their networks, he continued.

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