Pakistani police arrest suspect in masssacre of Christians

Thursday, November 1, 2001

Associated Press WriterMULTAN, Pakistan (AP)-- A member of a militant Islamic group was arrested Thursday in connection with the weekend massacre of 16 people at a Protestant church service, police said.

Shafiq ur-Rehman, a member of the extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba, was believed to have provided unspecified support to the six masked gunmen who massacred 15 worshippers and one Muslim police guard Sunday at St. Dominic's Church in Behawalpur, according to police superintendent Shahid Nizam Durani.

Durani said ur-Rehman was not believed to have been one of the gunmen. However, he was believed to have sent facsimiles to news media claiming responsibility in the name of a heretofore unknown group, Lashkar-e-Umar.

Police said Rehman was a messenger and facsimile operator at a clinic in the Punjabi city where the attack occurred.

In several raids, the police have detained about 100 people for questioning, but they insisted that ur-Rehman was a leading suspect.

The gunmen burst into St. Dominic's during Protestant services of the Church of Pakistan, spraying the congregation with gunfire. The 16 dead included the minister.

Some in Behawalpur believe the attacks were linked to the U.S. campaign against terrorism, which has led to more than three weeks of airstrikes in neighboring Afghanistan.

Protestants share the Roman Catholic church for services because they have no sanctuary of their own.

President Pervez Musharraf has ordered stepped-up security at all Christian churches in Pakistan, and both the federal and provincial governments have instructed authorities to place the highest priority on apprehending the gunmen.

Pakistan is 97 percent Muslim. Christians constitute a small portion of the remaining 3 percent.

The United States is trying to destroy installations belonging to the al-Qaida network and its leader, Osama bin Laden, the top suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

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