Pakistan’s top military officials warn Christians of Islamist terror plans

Senior officials in Pakistan’s military and government have warned the country’s Christians that jihadist groups, some with links to Islamic State (IS), are threatening attacks against Christians in churches, schools and hospitals.

Shaloom Naeem was left an orphan in the 2013 Peshawar church bombing
Shaloom Naeem was left an orphan in the 2013 Peshawar church bombing

Pakistani authorities have warned Christian leaders to take extra caution. One pastor was told that he should no longer take his customary morning and evening walks, and others were cautioned not to meet with unknown parties.

Leading generals told Christian leaders that Islamist terrorist groups will first target the north-western region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan, according to Gatestone Institute.

The groups that are plotting to attack Christians are Pakistani Taliban splinter groups that have apparently pledged alliances with the leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Even Hafiz Saeed Khan, former Pakistani Taliban Commander, made an oath of allegiance to the so-called Caliph in January.

Jundallah, the group that claimed it was behind the twin suicide bombing at a church in Peshawar on 22 September 2013, said in June: “The Jundallah will attack kafir Shiites, Ismailis and Christians”. Last November, the group’s commander, Farhad Marwat, said Jundallah was behind attacks against aid workers in Quetta, Pakistan. They were, he said, “Yahood o Nasara” (Jews and Christians).

According to Gatestone Institute, one Christian leader said part of the reason that Christians are being targeted by these groups could be in retaliation for the continued success of the military’s offensive against jihadist groups, particularly in north-western Pakistan, which began in June 2014. So far, over 3,000 militants have been killed in the offensive.

Police officials are often unwilling to stand on the side of unjustly targeted Christians in Pakistan and many times the police are themselves complicit in anti-Christian attacks. While Christian leaders welcome government attention towards their routinely persecuted minority, the beleaguered Christian community is relying on the country’s military, not the police, to protect them in the midst of heightened threat.

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