ISIS Continues to Target Christians in Pakistan’s Southwest

ICC Note: ISIS continues to target Christians in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan. On Sunday, two Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting claimed by ISIS’s Pakistani affiliate. This came only two weeks after a similar attack in Quetta, the provincial capital. Will Pakistan’s security forces finally admit to ISIS’s presence in Pakistan and take steps to curb the violence?

04/17/2018 Pakistan (The Nation) – On Sunday, two Christian community members were killed and five injured as gunmen unleashed fire near a church in Quetta’s Esa Nagri locality. The victims were coming out of the church following Sunday service.

This is the second attack on the community within the span of a fortnight, after a Christian family was shot dead on Easter Monday on Shahzaman Road. Sunday’s firing is the third attack on the community in four months after eight were killed in a suicide attack on Bethel Memorial Methodist Church a week before Christmas.

All three of the attacks, including the one on Monday, have been claimed by ISIS – the group whose presence has been routinely dismissed by our security agencies.

There indeed are question marks over the group’s operational involvement in the attacks that it has claimed in Pakistan – including last year’s Sehwan bombing, which was the deadliest attack since the APS massacre – and it is a fact that the group does not provide evidence for its assertions, but that is precisely what makes it uniquely perilous.

Despite having been pulverized in the Middle East, ISIS remains the biggest jihadist umbrella around the globe, and anyone from lone radical Islamists to splintered militant groups are gravitating towards the Islamic State – at least the brand, if not the operational core.

However, for Pakistan in particular the threat might be closer to home than we would like to believe, for Islamic State’s Khorasan faction has existed for over three years, and unlike ISIS core, is yet to flee any of its hubs.

A Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) security report for 2017 has not only maintained that there is ISIS presence in Pakistan – especially in Balochistan and northern Sindh – it has also warned against the group’s expansion.

This expansion does not require jihadists from the Middle East to penetrate Pakistan, all the group needs is for local aspirants to pay allegiance to it – that is how ISIS has been growing in the country, and continues to do so.

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