Militants attack another Presbyterian Church in Karachi By Robin Fernandez. PCP


KARACHI: August 30. Three unidentified men broke into a Presbyterian church here early Wednesday and ransacked its altar barely a day after security officials sounded a citywide alert on possible terror attacks. The intruders desecrated the altar of

Police sources said the intruders used a sophisticated tool to slice open the bottom latches on both the front gate and the main church door. "A sharp saw-like object was used to cut the latches so they would not have to bother about the locks," said a police official who asked not to be named. "This is the work of trained terrorists, not petty thieves." Rev. Bois Phillips said on Friday that he suspected the involvement of Al-Qaeda or its sympathizers in the pre-dawn attack. "I think Wednesday's break-in was only a warning by Al-Qaeda. Their real action is yet to come," the Presbyterian priest said. "I have been receiving threats on the phone from unknown men for the past three months. Often a male voice would tell me, 'We won't leave Presbyterian churches' or something to that effect," he said. "I had complained to the police about these threats but they did not doAnything," he said in exasperation. Nearly a week before the attack, the church's sole security guard said he had seen three men surveying The area surrounding the church. "They were riding in a blue car. I saw them practically every day for the last week. I even remember confronting them. I demanded to know what they were doing in the lane. But they, insolently, told me to mind my own business and drove off," the guard said. Police say the same three men could be responsible for Wednesday's attack. A church worker in the area said the attack would not have taken place if the two policemen posted there had not been absent from their post. "They left at midnight to have a meal but did not return," he said. The two policemen have since been sacked for dereliction of duty. Rev. Phillips said that the attackers struck at 4:00 a.m. probably because they knew his daily routine of Preparing for the morning service. "But that day it was raining and I was feeling ill and I didn't go to The church," he said. "I think it is divine providence that I should be alive today, for the attackers surely Would have found me in prayer when they broke into the place. I would have resisted them and they would have shot me," said the 42-year-old priest, whose own father Walker F. Lawrence helped build the United Presbyterian church in 1958. The United Presbyterian Church is the fourth church to be targeted by terrorists since October 29, 2001 and the first in the southern port city of Karachi. Some 1,100 families are registered as members of the Essa Nagri church. There are 14 churches in the shantytown but only three of them--St Phillips, United Presbyterian Church and a Methodist church-are registered, according to church demographers in the Area. Rev. Phillips is to convene a meeting of church leaders in Essa Nagri next week to work out a security Plan for Christian institutions and homes. "I was told by security and administration officials that, though They would commit a few more men for our protection, we needed to deploy our own security force," said Rev. Phillips, commenting on his meetings with the governor of Sindh and senior police officials. "We are likely to deploy 70 scouts and other volunteers for the purpose," another church official said. "Some residents have proposed the idea of neighborhood watches and keeping civilian sentries on the rooftops of some key buildings," he said. "That might help but remember our people are unarmed," he added.

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