Pakistani Christians Vow Revenge for Killings

BAHAWALPUR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Thousands of angry mourners shouted ``Revenge, revenge'' on Monday at the funerals of 15 Pakistani Christians in the church where they were massacred by six men firing assault rifles a day earlier.

Their bishop tried to calm them.

``We don't believe in revenge. We don't believe in violence. We forgive the blood of our martyrs,'' Andrew Fransec, bishop of central Punjab province, told the mourners before the coffins were taken to the graveyard.

Outside the church of St. Dominic's, and around Christian monuments across Muslim Pakistan, police reinforcements had been deployed to protect the tiny minority after the worst single massacre of Christians in Pakistan's 54-year history.

Police patrolled the streets of Bahawalpur in central Punjab province, and security has been increased around the mosques, churches and temples of the city.

More than 100 activists from militant Islamic groups were detained in overnight raids in southern districts of Punjab, police sources said.

``We call on the government to ban all militant groups,'' one Christian leader demanded in an address to hundreds of mourners on the lawns in front of St. Dominic's.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he had ordered a manhunt to track down the gunmen and would address the nation on the tragedy and his policies to prevent future massacres.

``My government and law enforcement agencies will do everything possible so that whoever has committed this gruesome act will be brought to book and given exemplary punishment,'' he said late on Sunday.


``Police reinforcements are in place throughout the country around churches and other places of worship of minorities,'' said Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema, director general of the Crisis Management Cell at the Interior Ministry.

``We can deploy paramilitary troops wherever is required like in Sindh,'' he said referring to the southern province that is home to most of the Hindus and Christians who make up about three percent of Pakistan's 140 million people.

Six masked men on motorcycles drew up outside St. Dominic's on Sunday morning, shot dead one of two police guards and stroke into the church spraying the congregation with their Kalashnikovs while shouting ``Graveyard of Christians -- Pakistan and Afghanistan,'' and ``This is just a start.''

Christians have long said they feared they could become targets if unrest broke out in Muslim Pakistan over opposition to the U.S. attacks on neighboring Afghanistan's ruling Muslim Taliban militia.

At least five people were wounded, included one who was in a critical condition, local doctors said.

Thousands gathered at the church for the funeral, chanting ''The blood of our martyrs will bring about revolution,'' and ``We will not bow to oppression.''