By Aamir Latif
KARACHI (AA) - At least five people have been killed and dozens are feared injured in a blast at a church in southwestern Pakistan, followed by security forces trying to overpower heavily armed militants, officials and local media reported.
The blast took place at 12 noon (0700GMT), when people were attending Sunday services at a church in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Balochistan province, local Geo News reported.
Abdul Razzak Cheema, Balochistan’s police chief, said at least five were killed and 16 injured, including women and children.
Rehmat Baloch, Balochistan's health minister, told reporters that four injured had been brought to the hospital.
Sarfraz Bugti, Balochistan’s home minister, told Geo News that, according to initial reports, two militants stormed the church, and one blew himself up at the entrance, while the other was shot dead by security forces.
"A rescue operation is underway as our first priority is to save the lives of several people trapped in the church," he added.
A female eyewitness told reporters that the blast occurred when people were in services. The attack comes as Pakistan's tiny Christian community is preparing to celebrate Christmas.
Footage on local Geo News showed security forces rescuing women and children as shots being fired could be heard.