- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Christian leaders, stunned by two deadly attacks by Muslim militants in less than a week, yesterday vowed that they will not let fear deter them from worship.
"We won't cancel services," said the Rev. Khalid Pervaiz, pastor of the United Pentecostal Church in Islamabad. "We will continue things the way we are doing them. Our members are not afraid. We are not afraid. God is still in control."
Mr. Pervaiz said he had spoken with other church leaders who felt the same and would hold Sunday services as usual, albeit with increased security measures including frequent police patrols, identity checks and inspections with bomb-detecting equipment.
Church officials also planned to hold prayer services Thursday at individual churches for the nine killed in the two attacks, the pastor said.
Officials at Pakistan's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, say there is a link between the two groups of three men that separately attacked a hospital chapel Friday, killing three, and a Christian missionary school four days earlier, killing six.
Pakistani investigators said yesterday that they had identified one of the assailants responsible for Friday's grenade attack on the chapel in which three nurses died and 26 were wounded.
"The body of one terrorist who died in the attack has been identified and further investigations are in progress," said Iftikhar Ahmad, a spokesman for Pakistan's Interior Ministry.
Mr. Ahmad declined to release the man's identity or identify the militant groups that trained him.
Police said they were searching for 15 to 20 militants who have split into small groups to attack Christians and Westerners in Pakistan in response to President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S. war against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and the al Qaeda terrorists it harbored.
U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials reportedly believe there is a link with al Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan, now hiding in Pakistan.
Security agencies have detained members of the outlawed groups in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir for training the extremists at their camps, intelligence officials said on the condition of anonymity.
Pope John Paul II yesterday expressed his condolences for the victims of both attacks.
In Washington, the State Department issued a statement condemning the killings.
"As Pakistan stood with the people of the United States after September 11, we now stand with Pakistan in confronting this common enemy," the State Department said.
The pope said he was "deeply grieved" by the attacks and offered prayers for "all who are suffering as a result of these heinous crimes."
Gen. Musharraf outlawed five major militant groups in January under pressure from India and the United States after two of them took part in a bloody attack on the Indian parliament.
The two recent attacks on Christians took place not far from the capital, Islambad. On Monday, three men burst through the gates of the Christian School in Murree, about 40 miles northeast of Islamabad, opened fire and killed six adult Pakistanis. None of the international schoolchildren were harmed.
Police say the same three men blew themselves up with grenades the following day at a police checkpoint in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
On Friday, three men lobbed grenades at women leaving the chapel at a Christian hospital in Taxila, killing three Pakistani nurses, about 20 miles west of Islamabad. One assailant died in the attack from a shrapnel wound.
One of three extremists believed responsible for the school attack reportedly told witnesses in Kashmir about the other militants before his group committed suicide.
The man, whose identity has not been made public, said the other groups also "plan to carry out similar attacks on Americans and nonbelievers," regional police Cmdr. Moravet Shah said.
The hospital in Taxila, supported by the U.S. Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, was founded in 1922 and treats mostly poor Muslim patients. Outpatient services remained suspended yesterday because of the attack.
The international school in Murree catered to the children of foreign Christian missionaries working in South Asia.
The deadly incidents were the latest in a string of attacks against Christians and foreigners in Pakistan that began shortly after the onset of the U.S. air campaign over Afghanistan in October.
Three men accused of plotting an earlier attack, a deadly car-bomb blast at the U.S. consulate in Karachi and a separate plan to assassinate Gen. Musharraf, appeared in court yesterday.
The three were taken from custody in an armored personnel carrier under tight security to the Karachi anti-terrorism court, where a judge issued arrest warrants for six more suspects in the June bombing and set the trial date of both cases for Aug. 16.
"Today, the accused were produced in the anti-terrorism court before Judge Aale Maqbool Rizvi. All of them were handcuffed, and my meeting with them was held in the presence of police guards," defense attorney Raza Abidi told reporters outside the court.
None of the accused made any statement to the court, he said, adding that prosecutors had made no application to have the trial held within the secure confines of the jail in which they are being held.
The chief suspect in both cases, Mohammad Imran Bhai, told reporters as he left the hearing that he was a victim of a conspirarcy between police and intelligence services, and would fight to clear his name.
"I am innocent, I am falsely implicated in these cases. How could I kill my own brothers and sisters? I will prove my innocence in the court," he said.
The massive suicide car-bomb attack outside the U.S. consulate June 14, which killed 12 Pakistanis, followed another in early May that killed 11 French naval engineers and three Pakistani nationals.
All three charged so far with the bombing also are accused of belonging to Harkat ul Mujahedin al-Alami, an offshoot of the banned militant outfit Harkatul Mujahedin which is fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.
Police earlier said those arrested were key office bearers of the group. Both groups are believed to be linked to al Qaeda.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide