ISLAMABAD, March 17: Five people, including a US diplomat’s wife and daughter, were killed and 41 others injured in a grenade attack on a church in the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave here on Sunday, police officials said.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Srilal Weerasooriya, his wife, Dilhani and their child were among the injured. Condition of six injured was stated to be critical. A doctor at one of the hospitals said that death toll may rise in view of the precarious condition of some of the injured.
Some 70 to 80 worshippers, including the families of diplomats, were attending Sunday morning service at the Protestant International Church - situated between the embassies of the United States and China - when the attackers, said to be more than one, entered the premises and hurled hand-grenades on worshippers at 10.50am.
“I was attending the service when all of a sudden explosions occurred. I found myself standing among the bodies soaked in blood,” Sarfraz Masih told Dawn at a hospital.
A German woman who was among the worshippers but escaped unhurt, said that she lay down when grenades were thrown. “I saw one person who seems to be in 30s wearing black shirt entered the church and throwing grenades,” she said on the condition of anonymity.
A security official said that at least 10 to 12 Russian-made hand-grenades were used in the attack.
Windowpanes of the church were shattered in the attack and blood stains, broken glass and splintered wood could be seen on the floor.
Besides army officials, security staff of the US Embassy also reached the spot and examined the remaining parts of the grenades.
The SSP Islamabad, Nasir Khan Durrani, later told newsmen said that a policeman was on duty when the attack took place. The attackers who were apparently more than one entered the church from two sides. After throwing the grenades, they escaped on foot, he added.
Those killed included two American women, two Pakistanis and an Afghan man. Initially, the names and diplomatic status of the two US women were being kept secret and they were only identified as “two women from the Green family”.
Later, they were identified as Barbara Green, the wife of US diplomat Milton Green, and their teenage daughter Christine.
Of the two Pakistani victims, one was a woman identified as Rabia Edward, an employee of US Embassy, while the identity of another victim, a male, could not be ascertained. The Afghan national was identified as Anwar Baizar, son of Ali Baba, resident of house 604, street 29, sector G-10/2 Islamabad.
Police suspect that the unidentified person whose body is yet to be claimed by his relatives, could be among the attackers who had been killed.
However, four bodies have been handed over to their relatives.
Later, a church employee, Edward, in his statement with the police, said there were 150 worshippers in the church, which has a capacity for 250 persons, when it was attacked. He described the attacker as 5-1/2 feet tall man, wearing a black shirt and have a dark complexion.
The injured included 14 Pakistanis, nine Americans, three Britons, five Iranians, one Iraqi, one Afghan, one Swiss, three Sri Lankans, one Canadian, one Australian, one Ethiopian, one German, while the identity of one man could not be ascertained.
The injured treated at Shifa Hospital were identified as Denis Shereck (43) US national, Stainly (60) Australian, A British woman Katemichell (42), A Japanese woman Mora Bioshi (30), Christopher (38) US, Nasreen (35) Pakistani, A Swiss woman Ambrila (35), A US woman Cindy Womble (37), A British girl Johnna (13), A US woman Diana Michael (27), A US woman Diane Sherbeck (38), Jeff (45) US, David (24) Pakistani, British woman Amanda (21), British woman Lowri (22), a British woman Lora (29), John Brasted (39) US, Mesfin (57) Ethiopian, a US woman Lisa (41), Dilhani (50) Sri Lankan, US woman Tamora (32) and Gen Veera (45) Sri Lankan.
The injured treated at the Federal Government Services Hospital (Polyclinic) included: Milton Green (US Embassy employee US national), Ashar (Pakistani), Rashid Masih (Pakistani), Dr Criste Muneer of Quaid-i-Azam University (Pakistani), Mustafa (Pakistani), Elizabeth (German), Mrs Tabassum (Pakistani), John Green (11) Pakistani, George Tabassum (Pakistani), Mohsin Taj Mahal (Irani national), Ali Asghar (Irani national), Jane Qurban (Irani national), Iranian woman Mendhi Murtazi, a female NGO worker Senti Wombune (US national), Christopher (Pakistani), Edward Guard, teacher at US Embassy (US national), Hemilton (US national), Farshid (Iranian national).
Those treated at PIMS included Rafaqat Hohn (26), Zia (30), Safraz (21), Joseph Rajmond (40) a US national, Samul (6) a US national, Ghazala Amoon (36) and Rasheed Akhtar. Twenty-two injured were treated at Shifa Hospital.
The Islamabad police faced further embarrassment when an Afghan national, considered to be a key witness to the attack, escaped from the hospital bed, said a police official.
He said soon after he went missing raids were conducted by the police on his residence but the address provided by him turned out to be fake.
The US Ambassador, Wendy Chamberlin, visited the Government Services Hospital and inquired about the injured.
At one point, she directed her security staff to keep away journalists and photographers from her. “Get them (journalists) out of here,” she said.
PRESS NOTE: A press note issued by the district magistrate Islamabad said at 1050 hours this morning, a person entered the Protestant International Church, situated at the Diplomatic Enclave, Islamabad and hurled six hand-grenades on the congregation. Three hand-grenades exploded, resulting into the death of five persons and causing injuries to 40 individuals.
It said among those killed included two Pakistanis, two Americans and an Afghan. The injured included citizens of USA, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The press note said the injured were shifted to Federal Government Services Hospital, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Shifa International Hospital. The injured who sustained minor injuries were discharged while the condition of some persons is serious.
APP ADDS: Talking to reporters at church SSP Islamabad Nasir Khan Durrani expressed apprehensions that the attackers at the church may also be included among the injured or killed.
“The attackers of the church may be included among the injured or dead as they had barged entry to the church and hurled four grenades which caused heavy casualty,” he said.
“Of the four grenades two immediately went off while the two others were recovered live by police,” he said.
When asked whether there was any arrest in this regard he said no arrest immediately could be made while investigations are in progress at a pace.