Three heavily armed suicide bombers attacked a crowded church Sunday in Quetta, southwestern Pakistan, killing at least eight worshipers from the minority Christian community.
Officials and doctors said women and children were among the victims of the attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, located in a highly secured central part of the city.
Witnesses said two of the assailants wanted to enter the main hall where around 400 worshipers were attending Sunday service, but police guards at the main gate engaged the attackers, killing one of them and leading the second to blow himself up outside the hall. The explosion fatally wounded a security guard, police said.
The provincial police chief, Inspector General Moazzam Ansari, told reporters a third suspected gunman fled to the nearby residential area during the exchange of fire and an operation was underway to hunt him down.
Ansari said the death toll could have been in the scores had the timely action by police guards on duty not stopped the bombers from entering the church hall.
“Both the bombers failed in their effort to enter the main building of the church because of the timely police action. Had our police security deployment not neutralized them and had they managed to go inside the main hall they would have inflicted heavy casualties because there were almost 400 men, women and children present inside the church," Ansari said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.