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Pakistan: 7 Killed in Attack on Christian Charity - 2002-09-25

Unidentified gunmen have killed at least seven people in an attack on a Christian charity in Pakistan's port city, Karachi.

Witnesses say the daylight shooting took place at the office of the Institute for Peace and Justice in a busy commercial area of Karachi. They say two gunmen entered the office of the Pakistani Christian welfare group and sprayed it with bullets.

A senior police official in Karachi says all the victims are Christians. He says the assailants taped their victims' mouths before executing them. Several others were injured in what officials are calling the "terrorist act."

The gunmen managed to escape after the incident, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility.

A series of violent attacks in Karachi this year has killed dozens of people, including 11 French nationals.

Wednesday's shooting is the fifth involving a Christian target in Pakistan since October. The wife and daughter of an American diplomat were killed in one of these attacks.

Authorities blame Muslim extremist groups linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network for the violence. These forces are unhappy with Pakistan's cooperation in the U.S. led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistani Christian leaders have condemned Wednesday's attack in Karachi.

"It seems that genocide of the Christian community in Pakistan has started," said Shahbaz Bhatti, head of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance. "The acts of terrorism against Christians' life, property and on their institutions show that the government has failed to protect the minorities in Pakistan. It [the attack] is a clear retaliation of the al-Qaida and Taleban forces against Christians in Pakistan."

The Pakistani government is cracking down on the militants, and in the past few months, they have arrested more than 30 suspects in connection with the attacks against western and Christian targets.