LeJ disguised as ISIS targeting Christians in Quetta

April 16, 2018
Roohan Ahmed

Relatives of two Christian men killed in a gun attack on April 15 carry the coffins for burial in Gora Qabrustan in Quetta – Photo by Naseem James

KARACHI: At least 15 Christians have been killed in a fresh spate of violence in Quetta.

No arrest has been announced.

In the latest attack on the religious minority, unidentified men sprayed volley of bullets on worshipers who were walking out of a church after attending the Sunday service. Two people died and three others, including two girls, were wounded.

It was the second drive-by shooting in Balochistan’s capital within two weeks. On April 2, four Catholics were killed in a similar attack in the city’s Shah Zaman area.

Nine Christians were killed a week before Christmas when two suicide bombers struck the Bethel Memorial Church in Quetta.

Men move the body of one a man from Christian family, who was killed by unidentified gunmen, into an ambulance at a hospital morgue in Quetta, Pakistan April 2, 2018. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

Civil and security officials have yet to make any arrests despite a surge in attacks on the vulnerable minority.

The Khorasan branch of the so-called Islamic State, also known as Daesh Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for all three attacks.

Security forces deny the organized presence of the IS in Balochistan.

“No organized network of Daesh exists in Balochistan,” DIG Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema told SAMAA on phone.

“LeJ and its offshoot LeJ al-Almi with the support of Daesh’s network operating in Afghanistan are carrying out the attacks in Balochistan.”

Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti blames Afghanistan.

“Groups backed by Afghanistan are staging attacks in the province,” he claimed, adding Daesh had made false claims in the past.

The minister, however, said his government would “unearth the people involved in subversive activities”.

Cheema said that Daesh was actually the LeJ and its leader was hiding in Afghanistan.

“LeJ and other sectarian groups have thrown their weight behind Daesh and they are working for them,” DIG Cheema said.

Policemen guide people after gunmen attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan December 17, 2017. Reuters

“We have confirmed reports that Deash is behind the attacks on Christian community,” he claimed.

“Terrorists have no known hideouts in the settled areas and they are hiding in the remote towns.”

DIG Cheema, however, said Quetta police had identified the group that was involved in the attack on the Bethel Memorial Church.

“They will soon be arrested,” he added.

A credible source, who wished not to be named, told SAMAA that terrorists still have hideouts in Mastung and Dasht despite recent raids.

“LeJ’s Baloch and Pashtun foot soldiers, Jaish-ul-Islam and TTP are active in the province,” he said, adding that groups’ leaders are hiding in Afghanistan.

Jaffar George, a former provincial educational minister and an elder of Christian community, lamented that federal and provincial government had failed to protect the minority community.

“Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo took notice of killings only after a three-hour long protest by the families of the victims,” he said. “Daesh can kill me, my children and parents but we will not abandon our faith.”

Senior analyst and SAMAA’s Quetta bureau chief Jalal Noorzai said those carrying out attacks in the province are part of a bigger terrorist network operating in Afghanistan.

“Surveillance cameras have not been installed in the city even after so many acts of terrorism,” Noorzai said referring to government’s failure to complete safe city project.

He said former chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri had awarded the contract to install cameras to a Chinese firm but his successor Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo has revoked the order.