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5 worshipers killed, 45 wounded in grenade attack on Pakistani church

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–Five people were killed and more than 40 worshipers were injured when an attacker hurled two grenades into a crowded evangelical Christian church. At least four Southern Baptists were among those injured in the March 17 blast.

President Bush called the incident at Protestant International Church a terrorist attack and pledged to work with the Pakistani government to bring the person who launched the attack to justice.

In a prepared statement, he condemned the “acts of murder that cannot be tolerated by any person of conscience nor justified by any cause.”

“I am outraged by the terrorist attack that took place in Islamabad, Pakistan, against innocent civilians,” he said.

It was the second attack on a Christian church in the region since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Witnesses said the attacker entered the church during the final moments of the sermon and hurled two grenades into the middle of the auditorium.

Jim Killgore, a former pastor of the church and now the president of an inter-denominational missions agency, told Baptist Press he received e-mail correspondence from one worshiper who saw the attacker enter and knew what was happening.

“He jumped behind a piano and called the Embassy as the attack was being launched,” Killgore said. “Like many Americans, we have the emergency number to the Embassy preprogrammed into our cell phones. This guy did some quick thinking. As the attack was happening, emergency vehicles were en route to the church.”

Protestant International Church is an evangelical, nondenominational fellowship popular with many foreigners living in Islamabad, including Americans.

Mark Wentworth, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Islamabad, told Baptist Press that in addition to the two American fatalities, 10 were also wounded.

“This was a popular church that many of our people attended,” Wentworth said. “This has been a very difficult time for us.”

Killed in the blasts were Barbara Green, a U.S. Embassy official, and her daughter, Kristen Wormsley, 17.

Green’s husband, Milton, and their son, Zack, were injured in the attack.

Several Southern Baptists were wounded, including a 6 1/2 year old boy.

The injured Southern Baptists include Jeff and Cindy Womble and their 6 1/2 year old son from Brandon, Fla.; and a woman who asked not to be identified. At least seven Southern Baptists were worshiping inside the church when the attack happened.

Cindy Womble suffered a broken leg and her son suffered head injuries from schrapnel. The unidentified woman sustained minor glass and schrapnel wounds.

The unidentified woman’s husband was not injured. However, one of the fatalities died in his arms on the way to a local hospital, according to the unidentified man’s father.

“I got a call at 2 a.m. from my son alerting me to the fact that there had been an incident during the worship service,” said the unidentified man’s father. “My son said it was a terrible scene. There was glass, rubble and people with missing limbs. It was a traumatic time for them.”

The couple, ages 32 and 26, hit the floor when the blast hit. The unidentified woman, a nurse, pulled glass from her leg before tending to the wounded.

“They are okay,” the man’s father told Baptist Press. “But they are all traumatized by this.”

The Womble boy is in serious condition at an Islamabad hospital with head and internal injuries. He was sitting between his parents, Jeff and Cindy, when the attack occurred.

Jeff Womble told The Los Angeles Times that his son was blown two rows back by the force of the explosion.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes