Suicide bomber kills nine attending services at Pakistan church

Nine people were killed and more than 50 wounded when two suicide bombers struck a church in Pakistan holding services ahead of Christmas.

ISIS quickly took credit for the blast, making it the first time the terror cell has claimed bombing a church in Pakistan.

The two assailants got into a scuffle with security forces guarding the Methodist church in Quetta, where a reported 400 people were attending Mass Sunday.

One attacker set off a suicide vest at the main entrance of the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, the Washington Post reported. A second man was killed in a hail of gunfire after the explosives strapped to his body didn’t detonate.

Moazzam Ansari, the province’s police chief, said the second assailant was stopped before he could make it into the church’s main building.

“Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher,” he said.

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At least two women were among those killed, the New York Times reported. Another 10 women and children were among those wounded.

Abdur Razzaq Cheema, Quetta police chief, said authorities are looking for another two suspects.

Photos showed distraught congregants rushing people out of the church. Debris was spewed throughout the church.

A Christmas tree set up next to the pulpit was still standing after the blast.

Hospital spokesman Wasim Baig said 57 people were hospitalized in Quetta after the blast. Seven of those wounded were in critical condition.

Aqil Anjum was in the church when an explosion and gunfire erupted during the service.

“It was chaos,” Anjum told the Associated Press. “Bullets were hitting people inside the closed hall.”

Salim Masih, speaking by phone with the Washington Post, said churchgoers rushed to escape as gunshots and crying became audible.

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TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Pakistani Christians assist an injured worshipper after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist Church in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / A. CALVIN (Photo credit should read A. CALVIN/AFP/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - DECEMBER 17: Pakistan security forces take measures after a suicide attack at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan on December 17, 2017. At least eight people including a woman were killed in blast and 42 others injured. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pakistani Christians are evacuated by security personnel from a Methodist church after a suicide bomber attack during a Sunday service in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least five people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. The attack took place at the Methodist Church in the restive southwestern city of Quetta in Balochistan province. / AFP PHOTO / BANARAS KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Pakistani Christians carry an injured worshipper after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist Church in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / A. CALVIN (Photo credit should read A. CALVIN/AFP/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - DECEMBER 17: [EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts graphic content] A medical staff treats a man injured in a suicide attack at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan on December 17, 2017. At least eight people including a woman were killed in blast and 44 others injured. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pakistani Christians protest after a suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church during a Sunday service in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 30 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / ARIF ALI (Photo credit should read ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - DECEMBER 17: A medical staff treats a woman, injured in a suicide attack at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, as her relatives try to calm her down in Quetta, Pakistan on December 17, 2017. At least eight people including a woman were killed in blast and 44 others injured. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pakistani security personnel take position after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church during a Sunday service in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least five people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. The attack took place at the Methodist Church in the restive southwestern city of Quetta in Balochistan province. / AFP PHOTO / BANARAS KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Pakistani security personnel rescue an injured woman after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church during a Sunday service in Quetta on December 17 2017. At least five people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. The attack took place at the Methodist Church in the restive southwestern city of Quetta in Balochistan province. / AFP PHOTO / BANARAS KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Pakistani security personnel and volunteers shift the body of a victim after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist Church in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / A. CALVIN (Photo credit should read A. CALVIN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Pakistani security personnel carry the body of a victim after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist Church in Quetta on December 17, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 15 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / A. CALVIN (Photo credit should read A. CALVIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives shift an injured victim after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church during a Sunday service in Quetta on December 17 2017. At least eight people were killed and 30 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in Pakistan during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / BANARAS KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
QUETTA, PAKISTAN - DECEMBER 17: Dead bodies of a bomb attack victims are taken to a hospital with ambulances after a suicide attack at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan on December 17, 2017. At least eight people including a woman were killed in blast and 42 others injured. (Photo by Mazhar Chandio/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pakistani Christians offer prayers during a mass on the last Sunday before Christmas at the Cathedral in Lahore on December 17, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 30 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked a church in the Pakistani city of Quetta, during a service on December 17, just over a week before Christmas, police said. / AFP PHOTO / ARIF ALI (Photo credit should read ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
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“Suddenly a huge explosion occurred outside the hall that broke window panes,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t see the attackers because I was trying to save my kids. I kept them in my arms.”

Christians make up roughly 2% of Pakistan, which has some 198 million citizens.

Christian activist Shamaun Alfred Gill, who’s based in the capital city Islamabad, accused the government of not protecting minority groups in the nation.

“December is a month of Christian religious rituals,” Gill told the New York Times. “We had demanded the government beef up security for churches all over the country. But they have failed to do so.”

While this is the first ISIS-claimed attack on a Pakistani church, other extremist groups have targeted the houses of worship.

The most fatal attack was the double-suicide blast on a Peshawar church, which killed 85 people in September 2013.

Another 15 people were killed at two churches in Lahore when suicide bombers struck each of them.

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