QUETTA, PAKISTAN – Two members of Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian community were killed on Sunday in the country’s southwest when unknown gunmen opened fire on a small group that had just left a local church, police officials said.
The churchgoers were on their way home in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, when two men on a motorcycle began shooting at them, local police official Ataullah Shah told Reuters.
Eight wounded were taken to a hospital and two people were pronounced dead.
Television pictures showed members of Quetta’s Christian community burning car and bicycle tires while protesting the shooting.
At the hospital, people screamed and cried as the two bodies were brought in on a stretcher covered with white sheets.
Baluchistan, a region bordering Iran as well as Afghanistan, is plagued by violence by Sunni Islamist sectarian groups linked to the Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamic State. It also has an indigenous ethnic Baloch insurgency fighting the central government.
Islamic State has created a branch in Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years mostly by recruiting among established militants. Its followers have claimed some of Pakistan’s most deadly recent attacks.
This month four members of a Christian family were gunned down in Quetta a day after Easter, in what police officials called a “targeted attack.
In December two suicide bombers stormed a packed church in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding up to 56. Islamic State claimed both attacks.
Rome’s ancient Colosseum was lit in red for an evening in February in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who has been living on death row in Pakistan since 2010, when she was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam.