“WE ARE FLYING KITES IN THE PLAYGROUND WHEN THEY CAME UP AND WAS STARTING FIRING SILENTLY. Both men had their faces covered. We tried to run away. This is the first time we see terrorists,” Youbal, 16, told Aid to the Church in Need (AED).
The eighth-grade Catholic student and two of his friends were injured on the evening of August 8 when gunmen on motorbikes attacked the Christian settlement in the Mastung area of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Bishop Khalid Rehmat of the Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta led a group of four priests to visit the victims of the shootings at the trauma center of Quetta Civil Hospital, 25 miles from Mastung, and prayed for them.
Youbal and the other teenagers were released on August 13, the day before Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day. However, Youbal’s father, Shakeel Masih, is worried.
“We want to admit him to a hospital in Karachi for better treatment. Quetta Public Hospital has a poor healthcare system. Youbal has started to walk slowly but doctors say he is still in shock and depressed. God gave him new life,” Masih told ACN.
Tensions have been high among Christians in Mastung since the shooting that resulted in the death of Wilson Masih, a 65-year-old Catholic who died on August 9.
“He used to hang out with my elderly uncles in the playground facing the Christian settlement. When the terrorists attacked, my other uncles lay down on the ground, but he remained standing, trying to warn others about the attacked children. He was hit by three bullets and died of a ruptured intestine,” said Dane Saleem, his nephew.
Wilson was the older brother of Hendry Masih, an MP from Balochistan who was killed by his bodyguard in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, in 2014. Mastung, a Muslim-majority town, has just 115 Christians.
A hundred demonstrators marched out on August 10 in Quetta to demand the arrest of the perpetrators of the Mastung attack and the protection of local Christians. “Stop the Genocide of Christians” and “Shooting Children – Shameful” read their placards.
According to Sharafat Shareef, executive secretary of Caritas Quetta, there have been at least four attacks on religious minorities in Baluchistan so far in August.
“Christians, Hindus and Shia Hazara are the vulnerable communities facing increasing attacks. The widespread closure of universities due to perpetual protests over disappearances has left young people semi-literate and easy choices for terrorist organizations,” the Catholic official said.
“In the region of Chaman, the corpse of a Christian was found on August 11, National Minority Day, with his nose and ear cut off. Locals try to downplay the case and say he was intoxicated by alcohol and was eaten by a cat.
Hundreds of Hazaras have also been killed over the past decade in attacks in Balochistan province, the country’s largest and poorest region, which is plagued by ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
Attacks against religious minorities have increased with the rise of terrorism in the country. Seven militant attacks were reported in Baluchistan in July, in which six people were killed, including four members of the security forces, while 10 were injured.
On August 13, two Pakistani army soldiers were killed when unidentified terrorists attacked a security force post in Harnai region, Balochistan on August 13.
The latest attack in Balochistan came shortly after the army responded strongly to reports that many militants belonging to the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were present in the Swat Valley in the northern province of Khyber. Pakhtunkhwa.
In a press release, the media arm of the army, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), however, acknowledged the presence of armed men from neighboring Afghanistan on some mountain peaks between Swat and Dir, far from the population.
In 2018, six Christians were victims of targeted killings in Quetta.
In 2017, two suicide bombers hit Bethel Memorial Methodist Church while children were rehearsing a Christmas play in Quetta, killing nine people and injuring 57.
Islamic State terrorists claimed responsibility for the terror attack, while Balochistan’s interior minister blamed it on terrorists from neighboring Afghanistan.