Masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire indiscriminately on worshippers in a church in eastern Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 16 people. Police say dozens more are seriously injured. The attack took place during a Protestant service at St Dominic's Catholic church in Bahawalpur, some 60 miles south of the city of Multan, in Punjab province. No one has so far said they carried out the attack, but officials said members of a banned Islamic group were under suspicion. One witness told Reuters, six men on three motorcycles rode up to the church and pulled out assault rifles, shooting two police guards before entering the packed building. Survivors said the gunmen locked the church doors and sprayed fire at the 100-strong congregation. They said terrified worshippers scrambled for cover, some taking shelter behind the altar. The area has a history of tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslim extremists, and hundreds of Muslims have died in sectarian violence over the years. But police said, the shooting on Sunday, was the first attack on Christians in the region, which is near the border with India. Christians neighbourhoods have been stepping up their security, for fear of retaliation, since the US attacks on neighbouring Afghanistan. Christians make up about 1% of Pakistan's 120 million population. In 1997, Muslim rioters in southern Punjab burned and looted hundreds of Christians' homes and ransacked 13 churches and a school, accusing some Christians of committing blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed.
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