Three girls died during a Christmas day attack on a small church in eastern Pakistan.

Witnesses said two assailants dressed in burqas—all-encompassing garments worn by women in some Muslim countries—threw a bomb into the middle of worshippers at a Christmas Day service, wire services reported. The attack injured 13 of the 40 Pakistanis inside the church in Chianwala, northwest of Lahore.

By the following day, police had detained an Islamic cleric who days earlier had allegedly urged supporters to kill Christians. They were questioning three other people as well. On that same day, about 2,500 people gathered for a memorial service for the victims—ages 6, 10, and 15.

Newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali called the attack "dastardly."

A police officer scheduled to guard the congregation failed to arrive for work, according to his superiors. Police officials said they were questioning him, but it was not immediately clear if he was negligent or involved with the attack.

Nazir Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, condemned the killings. He criticized the Pakistani government for not adopting necessary security measures for Pakistan's Christians and urged arrests of those responsible for the attack to prevent further violence against Christian worshippers.

Related Elsewhere

Previous coverage includes:

Weblog: A Very Scary Christmas | Violence and tension marks Christmas around the world. (Dec. 26, 2002)

For more stories on Pakistan persecution and violence, see Christianity TodayWorld Report.

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