Deadly blasts hit Pakistan churches in Lahore

media captionShaimaa Khalil reports on the blasts that have left at least ten dead

Two bomb blasts have killed at least 14 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.

More than 70 people were hurt in the explosions, which targeted worshippers attending Sunday mass at the churches in the Youhanabad area.

Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob killing two men accused of involvement in the attacks.

Pakistan's Christian community has often been targeted by militants.

An offshoot of the Pakistan Taliban, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, has said it carried out the attack.

Witnesses say suicide bombers were responsible for the explosions but police have not confirmed this.

The bombers are said to have detonated their explosives near the gates of St John's Catholic Church and Christ Church.

image copyrightAP
image captionThe bombers targeted Christians as they were attending Sunday morning mass
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe gates of one of the churches was destroyed in the explosion
image copyrightReuters
image captionRelatives of the dead consoled each other
image copyrightEPA
image captionAs news of the attack spread, Christians in other parts of Pakistan took to the streets in protest

A large crowd gathered at the scene of the blasts, protesting about the lack of security.

The crowd also attacked two men it accused of involvement in the explosions, killing both of them. Photographs from the scene showed a crowd setting the men's bodies alight.

Protesters carrying sticks blocked Lahore's Ferozepur Road. Local television pictures showed a bus station being attacked.

'Scuffle at church gate'

Amir Masih, a witness quoted by Reuters news agency, said he had heard an explosion near one of the churches.

"I rushed towards the spot and saw the security guard scuffle with a man who was trying to enter the church," he said.

The man blew himself up after failing to enter the church, Mr Masih told Reuters.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSecurity has been tightened after past attacks on Pakistan's churches
image copyrightAFP
image captionPakistan's large Christian minority suffers discrimination as well as militant attacks

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain have condemned the latest bombings.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, the chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a rights group, said the Lahore attacks highlighted the government's failure to protect minorities.

Pakistan's military last year began an offensive against militant bases in the mountainous north-west, bordering Afghanistan. Offshoots of the Pakistani Taliban have warned of attacks in response.

However, Lahore, the capital of the densely populated Punjab province, has largely escaped militant violence and is seen as a relatively peaceful city.

At least 80 people were killed by bombers at a church in the Pakistani city of Peshawar in 2013, in what is thought to be the deadliest ever attack on the country's Christians.

Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistan's overwhelmingly Muslim population.

image copyrightEPA
image captionAs news of the attack spread, Christians in other parts of Pakistan took to the streets in protest

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