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October 28,  2001

URGENT---URGENT

16 CHRISTIANS KILLED IN PAKISTAN
as US doesn't rule out nuclear weapons against Afghanistan

By:  Stefan J. Bos,  Special Correspondent ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD/KABUL (ANS) -- A group of bearded men on motorcycles stormed a Church and opened fire early Sunday, October 28,  killing at least 16 worshippers including a police officer,  the Cable News Network reported. 

The attack took place in Bahawalpur,  about 230 miles (370 kilometres) southwest of Lahore,  and were seen as an apparent  retaliation for the U.S.-led air strikes against neighbouring Afghanistan. 

It came as American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CNN he did not "rule out" the use of limited nuclear weapons against suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan.  "We have never ruled this out," he said,  adding that the current weapons used appear to be sufficient for the time being. 

AUTOMATIC WEAPONS

Rev. Jim Nuttle, a Catholic priest at the Church of Pakistan where the shooting happened,  was quoted as saying that about  50 people were in the church  when the attack began  at the end of the first service at 9 a.m.  local time.  

"The men rode up on  motorcycles and shot a police officer who was a church security guard,"  Nuttle said. He stressed the men then stormed the church and began "shooting  indiscriminately with automatic weapons."  

He added that "they were in the church for a full five minutes. ...  They left as quickly as  they came; they left a great deal of carnage in the   church -- people dead,  dying."  Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf,  has sent two federal ministers to Bahawalpur,  to express condolences to the families,  CNN reported.      

CHRISTIAN AID WORKERS

There has been growing concern about revenge attacks against Christians in the Muslim dominated region.  Across the border in Afghanistan,  eight Westerner aid workers have been removed to a bunker like hide out by the Taliban regime,  ASSIST News Service learned earlier this week. 

However the two Americans,  four Germans and two Australians held by the Taliban on charges of  trying to convert Muslims to Christianity are healthy and safe, a  Canadian humanitarian aid worker told CNN Sunday,  October 28. He said Taliban officials told him he would be able to visit the workers on Tuesday,  October 30.     

It is not clear under what circumstances their 16 Afghan co-workers are held, but people familiar with the case describe their situation as "more serious." 

TRIAL POSTPONED

The accused are still awaiting trial for allegedly spreading the Gospel in Afghanistan.  But anxious parents and their lawyer fear that the trial may be postponed,  as the U.S. apparently sees itself forced to intensify air strikes and other military operations in and around the Capital Kabul where they are being held.   

Some 35 bombs fell on Kabul in an 11-hour period, sources in the city said Sunday, October 28.  The Taliban said nine people were killed in the strikes, but that claim could not  be independently verified. 

In addition a 25-year-old woman was killed and her 4-year-old son injured in the village of Ghani Khail,  in territory controlled by the anti-Taliban opposition known as the Northern Alliance, according to local reports.     

MILITARY STRATEGY

Explaining the military strategy on Sunday,  October 28,  U.S. Defence Secretary Rumsfeld admitted that it will be difficult to find suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden,  who is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks against America.

Rumsfeld said he the Saudi exile and his terrorist network are hiding in caves, and that the Taliban regime that harbours them knows the area well.  In addition some 5,000 armed Pakistani tribesmen reportedly attempted to cross into Afghanistan on Saturday,  October 27, to fight for the Taliban,  carrying weapons and supplies, including blankets and camping gear.

Meanwhile former Mujahedeen and anti Taliban opposition leader Abdul Haq was reportedly buried Sunday,  October 28, in the Afghan town of Surkhrud, about 10 kilometres west of Jalalabad.  He was executed by the Taliban Friday, October 26,  along with two others on charges of spying.

TERRORISM CHASE

However despite the difficulties U.S. forces are facing, Rumsfeld repeated his earlier comments that the America and its allies "fully intend to find" those responsible for terrorism and "chase them to the ground and root them out."

He stressed those impatient with America's military operation should understand that "the country lost more than 5000 people" when hijacked planes slammed into the Pentagon in Washington and the World Trade Center in New York City.

A memorial service was planned for Sunday at the site of the World Trade Center disaster for families of those whose loved ones died. "The focus of this will be prayer and song for the families who lost people at the World Trade Center," New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said.


Stefan J. Bos can be contacted by e-mail at bosnews@externet.hu.

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