08/03/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Sukkur, five Christians killed outside church

A group of masked men opened fire on the faithful gathered to talk about security. Since 2008, members of extremists group threaten non-Muslims: "they pollute the land they live on and must leave."

Sukkur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A dozen masked men opened fire against five Christians, killing them instantly as they left their church (see photo). The massacre occurred on 15 July, two months after threatening letters were sent to the church by a group of Islamic extremists outlawed by the government. The victims are Pastor John Aaron, Rohail Bhatti, John Salman, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall, all the faithful of the Church of the Gospel. Five other faithful were wounded in the attack.

Shahid John, son of Pastor Aaron says: "The five were gathered in the church along with others to discuss the security problem. After leaving, a group of armed men opened fire against us”.  He escaped with a wound to the arm: "The area is steeped in fear. The police arrived 45 minutes after the attack, and we had to wait another 45 minutes for an ambulance".

Last May, the Sip-e-Sahaba (Islamic extremist group, also known as Sipah-e-Sahaba) had threatened the Christians to leave the area before it was too late. Kiran Rohail, wife of Rohail Bhatti (one of the wounded) said: "They told us that we are not welcome, that we pollute the land." The group is composed of members of a local madrassa (Islamic school), which has been threatening non-Muslims since 2008.

Naila John, widow of pastor killed in the attack, recalls: "In that year a group of Muslim students began threatening us, they wanted our land. Out of fear, only 55 Christian families remained in the area. " Local police "took our complaints but did not initiate any investigation. It is clear that threats from Muslims convinced them to stay out of the question".  

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