Christian fury as bombs kill 80 worshippers in Pakistan
Attack comes as Pakistan government pursues talks with Taliban and releases their deputy leader
THE suicide attack that killed at least 80 people outside a church in Peshawar has prompted widespread demonstrations by Pakistan's Christian community.
Two groups with links to the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the bombing, which took place at midday yesterday as worshippers were leaving a Sunday Mass at the historic All Saints church. The BBC says it is one of the deadliest attacks on Christians in the largely Muslim country.
The atrocity triggered large demonstrations in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi yesterday, with more rallies expected in major cities today.
The BBC says the Christian community - which makes up about 1.6 per cent of Pakistan's 180 million people - is furious about the government's apparent inability to protect them from militants.
There is anger too, that the attack follows efforts by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to initiate peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban aimed at ending a decade of violence.
The day before the attack the Pakistani government released Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar from jail. He was set free at the request of the Afghani government which considers him an essential part of efforts to "jump-start Afghanistan's struggling peace process".
Sharif's government has announced three days of mourning in the wake of the attack. It is believed that two suicide bombers, each wearing jackets containing about 6kg of explosives, blew themselves up as a congregation of about 600 people filed out of the church.
Reports suggest that ball-bearings were mixed with the explosives to maximise injuries. More than 30 women and seven children are among the dead and about 120 people were injured.
Two militant groups, Jandullah and the Junood ul-Hifsa, have claimed responsibility for the attacks, the BBC says. Both have "past links" with the Pakistani Taliban.
The Taliban itself has denied responsibility, although the BBC notes that the organisation "frequently denies responsibility for attacks which take a heavy civilian toll". ·