Pakistan Christians hold funerals for church blast victims

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Pakistani Christians carry a casket of a victim of Sunday"s pair of suicide attacks on two churches during a mass funeral service in Lahore, PakistanImage source, AP
Image caption,
Seventeen people were killed in the attacks and more than 70 wounded

Hundreds of Pakistani Christians have attended funerals for the victims of two Taliban suicide bomb attacks in the city of Lahore.

Security was tight, with police sealing off Lahore's biggest Christian neighbourhood and submitting those attending to security checks.

Sunday's bombings of two churches in the Youhanabad area left 17 people dead and more than 70 wounded.

Two days of rioting by Christians followed, with two men lynched.

A reported 5,000 police and paramilitary rangers were deployed on Tuesday to try to prevent further rioting.

The main road into the district was closed with rails and barbed wire.

Image source, Reuters
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Pakistan's Christian minority has often been the target of militants
Image source, EPA
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The funerals took place in Lahore's biggest Christian neighbourhood

Shops were also shut as grieving relatives made their way towards burial grounds.

"I would like to tell these terrorists if they think that they can push us back from our faith, they are deadly, entirely, very much at fault," said Manual Mani, a pastor attending the funerals.

The attacks during Sunday mass have been condemned by representatives of all religions in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Christians

  • Make up 1.6% of Pakistan's predominantly Muslim population
  • Majority are descendents of those who converted from Hinduism under the British Raj
  • Most converted to escape their low-caste status and many are among the poorest in Pakistan
  • Targeting of Christians fuelled by strong anti-blasphemy laws and anger over US-led war in Afghanistan

They also criticised the mob violence that followed, as angry Christian crowds threw stones, blocked roads and lynched two men they accused of being involved in the attack. The family of one of the men has told a Pakistani newspaper that he was an innocent shopkeeper and had not been a militant.

Riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse rioters on Monday.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
There was a heavy security presence in place for Tuesday's funerals
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The suicide attacks on Sunday were followed by rioting

Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, speaking at the National Assembly on Tuesday, also condemned the reprisal attacks, saying that they constituted "the worst form of terrorism".

"A similar incident occurred right at the heart of Paris where a synagogue was attacked," Mr Nisar said, "but the minority Jews did not react violently in the French capital."

Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistan's population and many are among its poorest people.

Members of the Christian community say that the riots are a show of anger and frustration from a community that feels unprotected and abandoned by the government.