LAHORE, Pakistan - A pair of suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday as worshipers prayed inside, killing 15 people in the latest assault against religious minorities in this increasingly fractured country, officials said.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ahsanullah Ahsan, claimed responsibility for the assault in a statement e-mailed to reporters, and warned, "There will be more of such attacks."
Afterward, a Christian mob blocked a major highway, ransacked a bus terminal, and burned to death two people they suspected of being involved in the attacks. Demonstrators blocked roads in other cities as well.
The explosions occurred in quick succession in the Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad at two churches about 650 yards apart. At least 70 people were wounded, said Zahid Pervez, the provincial director-general of health, who gave the death toll.
Hospitals filled with casualties and scenes of mourning. Shaheen Bibi's son Abhishak, 10, was among those killed. "My son had gone to the church to pray for a good result in his examinations," Bibi said as she cried and struck her head against the chest of a relative. "He wanted me to sew him some new clothes if he passed his examinations."
Witnesses said the bombers targeted a crowded gate where a large group of people waited to enter one of the churches.
Life in Pakistan is increasingly dangerous for religious minorities, especially Christians. They have been targeted by extremist Sunni Muslim militants and are also discriminated against in the wider society, where they are often limited to menial jobs like garbage collection.
Much of the country is already on edge after years of militant violence including an attack on a Peshawar school in December that killed 150 people, mostly students.
The crowd attacked two people they thought were connected to the assault, and burned them to death while others attacked buses, said the deputy inspector general of police, Haider Ashraf. Two police officers who were protecting the churches were also killed in the explosions.