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MUSLIM TESTIMONY

The Associated Press by telephone.
 
Thursday, December 26, 2002
 
LAHORE, Pakistan Mourners buried three girls killed in a Christmas grenade attack on a tiny church in eastern Pakistan, and police detained an Islamic cleric who allegedly called on followers to kill Christians days before the bombing.

 
Police also detained three other people Thursday for questioning in the attack, which injured 13 people in Chianwala, about 40 miles northwest of Lahore.
 
Two assailants covered in burqas -- the all-encompassing garment worn by women in some Islamic countries -- tossed a grenade into the middle of worshippers at a Christmas service Wednesday.
 
On Thursday, about 2,500 people, several times the number of the church's normal congregation, gathered for a memorial service for the girls killed in the attack.
 
The coffins of the victims -- aged 6, 10 and 15 -- were carried on the shoulders of mourners to a local cemetery for burial.
 
In a statement, newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali described the attack as "dastardly" and designed to "foment religious and sectarian strife" in Pakistan.
 
Since Pakistan lent its support to the U.S.-led military campaign to overthrow Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban, attacks on Christians by suspected Islamic militants have increased, killing more than two dozen people.
 
The cleric, who uses only the one name, Afzar, was being detained because of hateful remarks toward Christians made three days earlier in a sermon at a mosque in the district of Daska, where Chianwala is located, police said. Authorities say they have no evidence yet that he was directly involved in the attack.
 
Afzar reportedly told his congregation that "it is the duty of every good Muslim to kill Christians," according to Nazir Yaqub, a police officer in Daska.
 
"Afzar told people 'you should attack Christians and not even have food until you have seen their dead bodies,"' Yaqub told The Associated Press by telephone.
 
Afzar's son, Attaullah, was also detained for questioning. The two are open supporters of the banned group Jaish-e-Mohammed, a violent anti-India organization with ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network, said a police officer in Chianwala, Mohammed Riaz.
 
A spokesman for the militant group, Mufti Abdul Raouf, said his party did not carry out the attack.
 
There have been four other deadly attacks on Christians in Pakistan this year. The last was on Sept. 25, when gunmen entered the offices of a Christian welfare organization in Karachi, tied seven employees to their chairs and shot each in the head.
 
On March 17, a grenade attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad killed five people, including a U.S. Embassy employee and her 17-year-old daughter.
 
On Aug. 5, assailants raided a Christian school filled with foreign children in Murree, 40 miles east of Islamabad. Six Pakistanis were killed, including guards and non-teaching staff.
 
And on Aug. 9, attackers hurled grenades at worshippers at a church on the grounds of a Presbyterian hospital in Taxila, about 25 miles west of Islamabad, killing four people.

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