Security forces prevent greater harm in assault on Christian community.By Our Pakistan Correspondent
LAHORE, Pakistan, September 4, 2016 (Morning Star News) – Swift action by security forces prevented a major tragedy in northwestern Pakistan after four Taliban suicide attackers armed with bombs and assault rifles targeted a Christian colony early Friday (Sept. 2).
One Christian security guard was killed and five others – two Christians and three security personnel – were injured in the attack on the gated community near Peshawar, capital city of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Suicide bombers with notorious terror group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaatul Ahraar faction, launched an attack on the colony when the security guard opened the main gate.
The TTP Jamaatul Ahraar group had also carried out the Easter attack aimed at Christians in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park on March 27, killing more than 70 people, including women and children, and injuring over 300 others. Though aimed at Christians, most of the victims were Muslims.
Some 30 Christian families live in the colony attacked on Friday, which is close to the Warsak Dam some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Peshawar. Most of the Christians work at the dam and its affiliated offices. The colony is also near the borders of the restive Khyber and Mohmand tribal agencies. Situated close by are an army training center, a cadet college and an Army Public School.
Intelligence sources said that the army installations were initially the target of the attack, but since security forces had already received intelligence and were alert to the threat, the Islamic extremist instead moved in to attack the Christian colony.
The four assailants were waiting outside the main gate of the colony when Christian security guard Samuel Masih, 55, unlocked it at 5:30 a.m.
“Masih was hit by a volley of bullets fired from an assault rifle as soon as he unlocked the main gate,” a senior security official said. “He died instantly while two other security guards were injured during the crossfire.”
Church of Pakistan Bishop of Peshawar Humphrey Peters told Morning Star News that Masih was a hero who had sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his community members.
“This was yet another attempt to terrorize the Christian community, but we are thankful to God that he has saved us from an attack that could have caused massive deaths,” he said, adding that timely intervention of security forces had thwarted the terrorists’ plan to inflict maximum casualties.
Masih is survived by his widow, Razia Bibi, and five children – two sons and three daughters.
The senior security official said one of the bombers entered an under-construction house owned by a local Christian named Farrukh Masih and blew himself up. There were no casualties when the bomb exploded.
In a statement on the army media wing’s official twitter handle, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Asim Bajwa said that, “Authorities promptly responded, and all four suicide bombers are dead.”
Wearing suicide vests and carrying firearms, the attackers exchanged fire with security forces backed by army helicopters and were killed, Bajwa said. Two soldiers, a policeman and two civilian security guards were wounded, he added.
The official said the attackers might have been attempting to enter an adjacent security installation by exploiting weaker security arrangements in the residential area.
A spokesperson for the Inspector General of Police Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province told Morning Star News that police have enhanced security at Christian establishments, schools, hospitals, colonies and churches.
“Police have sensitized the administration regarding security alert,” he said. “Schools’ security has also been beefed up.”
Jamaatul Ahraar Responsible
The TTP Jamaatul Ahraar said in a statement issued to media that its attack came in response to recent claims by the Pakistan Army that it has pushed back terror groups.
The attack on the Christian colony came barely a day after Bajwa gave an exhaustive rundown of progress made against terrorists in the country’s northwestern region in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014.
He highlighted that Pakistan had suffered a cumulative loss of $106.98 billion in the war on terror between 2001 and 2015.
“We are not doing it for anyone but ourselves,” he stressed.
He said 3,500 terrorists had been eliminated during the course of Operation Zarb-i-Azb.
The attack on the Christian Colony comes just three weeks before the third anniversary of a deadly twin suicide bombing on All Saints Church in Peshawar on Sept. 22, 2013, in which at least 96 Christians died, including many children.