- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

From combined dispatches
LAHORE, Pakistan Police arrested six persons yesterday, including a Muslim cleric who reportedly advocated killing Christians, in connection with a Christmas Day attack on a church that killed three girls.
Two extremists dressed in burkas, the veils worn by some Muslim women, threw explosives into the midst of some 50 worshippers at a Christmas service in the town of Chianwala, killing the girls and wounding 11.
The arrested cleric, known as Afzar, was held along with his son because of comments he was reported to have made during a sermon at his mosque in Daska, near Chianwala, three days before the attack.
Nazir Yaqub, a police officer, said Afzar told his congregation, "It is the duty of every good Muslim to kill Christians. You should attack Christians and not even have food until you have seen their dead bodies."
Afzar and his son are open supporters of the banned group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has close links to al Qaeda, and has fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan and separatists in Kashmir.
Four others are also being detained in connection with the attack.
Christmas decorations still hung yesterday from the wood-beam roof of the church in Chianwala, 40 miles northwest of Lahore. Blood stained the woven straw carpets on the floor.
About 2,500 people gathered for a memorial service. Many of the mourners, mostly fellow Christians who came from nearby towns, wept as the coffins of the victims, ages 6, 10 and 15, were carried to a cemetery for burial.
Although security had been increased outside churches during the Christmas season, a policeman supposed to be on guard outside the Chianwala church did not report for duty.
Pakistan's new prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, described the attack as "dastardly" and designed to "foment religious and sectarian strife" in the mostly Muslim country.
Pakistani Christians, who make up a small minority of the population, have been the target of several terrorist attacks in recent months.
In the last attack, Sept. 25, seven members of a Christian charity organization were killed in Karachi. In August, four persons died in a grenade attack on a church in northern Pakistan.
Islamic militants, angered by President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on terror, have been blamed for a spate of attacks on Christians and foreigners in Pakistan.
About 300 Christians gathered in the central city of Multan to protest the attack, accusing the government of not providing adequate security.
"What is the fault of the innocent children who were just praying peacefully?" asked Bishop Andrew Francis at the protest. "Where should we go? Should Christians quit Pakistan?"
Gen. Musharraf banned Jaish-e-Mohammed and several other Islamic groups early this year as part of a campaign to stem Islamic militancy in Pakistan.
Police officials said Jaish-e-Mohammed, or the Army of Mohammed, was active in the area.
The group was formed by Masood Azhar, one of three Muslim militants released by India in 1999 in exchange for the freedom of passengers of a hijacked airliner.
He was under house arrest in the city of Bahawalpur, 310 miles south of the capital, Islamabad, since December 2001, but earlier this month a court ordered his release.

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