An attack on a Methodist church in Quetta, Pakistan by a pair of suicide bombers killed at least 8 deaths and wounded 45 others on Sunday according to officials.
Two gunmen approached the packed cathedral armed with explosive vests and firearms just as service began at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Sunday morning.
The pair were stopped at the gate by church guards and a dispute ensued, causing one attacker to detonate his vest while his partner exchanged gunfire with police before being shot down.
"People were fleeing to the corners [of the church]. I couldn't understand what was happening, it happened so suddenly," one witness told Al Jazeera.
“There were nearly 400 people inside the church, but the attackers couldn’t get inside the services,” said Balochistan Police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari. “We killed one of them, and the other one exploded himself after police wounded him,” he said, adding that had the guards not protected the church, hundreds would have been killed.
"We have cleared the immediate area around the church, and we are now clearing a peripheral area further out," Jah said, and children have been moved to a shelter.
Authorities say that at least one other attackers fled the scene and an investigation is currently underway. Among those killed were two women and a church guard was fatally wounded.
“Attack of terrorists on Zarghoon road church in Quetta is condemned. Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts,” Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Mohammed Faisal wrote on Twitter.
The church had been on the alert list as a Christian place of worship, the police chief said, adding that the sect has been known to be targeted in the past. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attack, BBC reports.