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Grenade Attack Kills 4 at Pakistani Christian Hospital - 2002-08-09

At least four people have died and more than 20 were injured in a grenade attack on a Christian missionary hospital near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

The attack took place inside a Christian chapel of the hospital compound as people were leaving after morning services. Dr. Ashchenaz Lall is the director of the hospital in the town of Taxila, 40 kilometers west of the Pakistani capital. He says there were three unknown attackers.

"We had just finished the service and we are just coming out of the church," he explained. " So they came inside and went towards the church and threw two grenades, which went off. There were ladies in front so most of the ladies they got hurt. "

Dr. Lall says most of the injured are nurses at the hospital, run by Christian missionaries. He says three of the nurses are seriously wounded. Police say one of the suspected attackers was also killed.

This is the second time in less than a week that Christians have become target of a terrorist attack. On Monday, masked gunmen raided a Christian missionary school 40 kilometers northeast of Islamabad. Six Pakistani workers at the school were killed in that attack.

Mostly foreign students and expatriate staff were unharmed. Two days later, the attackers blew themselves up after being challenged by police.

No one has taken responsibility for any of these incidents. Pakistani minister for religious minorities, S.K. Tresslar, himself a Christian, says this could be the work of Muslim extremist forces. He spoke from the scene of the attack.

"It seems that it is being done by the same chain of terrorists and we have to fight them all together," he said.

Pakistan is a key partner in the U.S.-led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. The cooperation has outraged Islamic militants in Pakistan who, officials believe, responded with stepped-up attacks on Christian and foreign targets in the country. They have killed dozens of people in the past few months.

An attack on the U.S. consulate in the southern city of Karachi and a suicide car bomb outside a hotel there are also blamed on Islamic militants. In all 26 people were killed in these incidents, including 11 French nationals.

Many western nations advise their citizens against traveling to Pakistan. Embassies and foreign companies have scaled back staff levels in the wake of these attacks.