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Pakistan church bomb attack kills dozens

Pakistani police say a twin suicide bomb attack on a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar has claimed dozens of casualties. The attack occurred as worshippers were leaving mass.

Medical and police officials said at least 75 people were killed and scores more injured in the attack, which occurred on Sunday morning in Peshawar's Kohati Gate district.

The death toll is likely to rise, as several of those injured are reported to be in critical condition.

The attack is one of the most deadly ever to have been carried out on Christians in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

A senior police officer said the suicide bombers struck as people were coming out of a Sunday service in the historic All Saints Church, which is located in a densely populated area near a market.

He said two policemen were among the dead.

It has now been confirmed that two suicide bombers were involved in the attack, after initial reports were uncertain of the number.

A police officer said authorities were trying to identify the age of the attackers from body parts that were found after the blasts.

Minority under threat

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the bombings, saying that terrorists had "no religion and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions."

Hard-line Islamist militants have been blamed for previous attacks on Pakistan's Christian minority, which makes up about two percent of the population. The militants frequently bomb targets they see as heretical, including Christians and Shiites.

In 2009, a mob of 1,000 Islamists angered by reports of the desecration of the Koran set ablaze 40 houses and a church in the town of Gojra in Punjab province. At least seven Christians burnt to death in that attack.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has warned that the risk to Pakistan's minorities has reached crisis level.

tj/dr (Reuters, AP, dpa)