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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Christians shaken by string of attacks
Relatives of grenade victim outside hospital in Taxila
Victims' relatives gathered outside the hospital to grieve

A series of attacks on churches and foreign targets in Pakistan in the last year has created a sense of panic among Westerners and the country's tiny Christian community.

Pakistani authorities believe Islamic extremists with al-Qaeda links could be behind these attacks, but as Pakistani security forces continue with their operation against these extremists many local Christians wonder what their future holds.


Unless Pakistani authorities move fast, it will be extremely difficult to bring back a sense of security

There have been two attacks in the last five days, both aimed at Christian missionaries.

The latest incident in Taxila is as serious as Monday's attack on a missionary school near the town of Murree. Six people were killed in Murree, but none of the 154 students and teachers of the Christian school were hurt.

Pakistani citizens were killed in the latest attack in Taxila and police believe the targets of these extremists are both Westerners and local Christians.

Extremists blamed

There have been four attacks on churches and two bomb explosions in Pakistan in the last year and security officials are convinced that it is the work of Islamic extremists who are opposed to Islamabad's support for the US-led war against terrorism.

Officials describe these attacks as desperate attempts by the few remaining militants. The government says many of the extremists have already been arrested.

But perhaps these assurances are not enough for foreign nationals and local Christians. Many of them rightly feel vulnerable in the wake of such attacks.

The fact that these incidents have occurred in places as far apart as Karachi and Islamabad and now even in Taxila, suggests that either the group behind them is highly organised, or there are a number of groups involved.

Many foreign nationals have already left the country and some of the Western embassies are presently working with skeleton staff.

Unless Pakistani authorities move fast to provide sufficient protection, it will be extremely difficult to bring back a sense of security among the remaining foreign nationals and the local Christians in the country.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

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