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AT least 56 people have been killed and wounded 120 as suicide bombers targeted a Christian church in Pakistan this morning. The attack occurred as worshipers left the All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, following a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 worshipers had attended the service and were leaving for a distribution of free food on the lawn outside, when two explosions ripped through the crowd.
Eyewitness Nazir John said: “There were blasts and there was hell for all of us.
“When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
Survivors from the attack, which took place while hundreds were inside the church, wailed in despair and hugged each other outside the church.
Former information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the number of casualties from the blast was so high the hospital were running out of beds for the wounded.
John Tariq, who was wounded in the attack, lost his father in the terrorist attack this morning.
He said: “What have we done wrong to these people? Why are we being killed?”
The dead included women, children and two Muslim police officers who had been posted outside the church. Witness reported scenes of mayhem as rescue workers ferried victims from the church, which witnesses said was scattered with body parts, shrapnel and bloodied clothing.
Enraged Christians reacted emotionally as police and rescue workers reached the scene, forcing some to leave.
“As soon as the service finished and the food was being distributed, all of a sudden we heard one explosion, followed by another,” said Azim Ghori, a witness.
No one has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack but suspicions will fall of the country’s many Islamic militant groups.
The church is located in a densely populated city, while Christians make up four per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million strong population.
The attack is the worst sectarian attack since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sworn in in June.
In its immediate aftermath a number of residents took to the streets to protest against the violent attack by burning tyres.
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for minorities and Christians tend to keep a low profile in the area.
Islamist militants frequently bomb targets they see as heretical which includes Christians and Shi’ites.
In March, a Muslim mob swarmed through a Christian neighborhood in the eastern city of Lahore, torching two churches and more than 100 houses. Christians also frequently find themselves accused of blasphemy under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.
The attacks are mostly orchestrated by Sunni extremist militant groups, although some have also been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
The All Saints Church is one of the oldest in Peshawar and was built during the British colonial era.