A member of a militant Islamic group was arrested Thursday in connection with the weekend massacre of 18 people at a Protestant church service, police said. Shafiq ur-Rehman, a member of the extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba, was believed to have provided unspecified support to the six masked gunmen who massacred 15 worshippers and one Muslim police guard Sunday at St. Dominic's Church in Behawalpur, according to police superintendent Shahid Nizam Durani. Durani said ur-Rehman was not believed to have been one of the gunmen.
However, he was believed to have sent facsimiles to news media claiming responsibility in the name of a heretofore-unknown group, Lashkar-e-Umar. Police said Rehman was a messenger and facsimile operator at a clinic in the Punjabi city where the attack occurred. In several raids, the police have detained about 100 people for questioning, but they insisted that ur-Rehman was a leading suspect. who had faxed a message to a Multan daily, accepting the responsibility of the massacre, Dawn learnt here on Saturday night. It is learnt the ring-leader has been arrested from a katchi abadi in Karachi by the Bahawalpur police, who have brought him back.
Witnesses said the gunmen pulled up on motorcycles, raced into the church and fired at the congregation with Kalashnikovs while shouting: "Graveyard of Christians - Pakistan and Afghanistan" and "This is just a start." The 16 dead included the minister. Protestants share the Roman Catholic church for services because they have no sanctuary of their own. Local police on Saturday claim to have traced alleged killers of last Sunday's church carnage in which 15 Christians and a constable on duty were gunned down.
The culprits have been identified on the information provided by fax operator, Shafiq, who had faxed a message to a Multan daily, accepting the responsibility of the massacre, Dawn learnt here on Saturday night. It is learnt the ring-leader has been arrested from a katchi abadi in Karachi by the Bahawalpur police, who have brought him back. The local police have completed its task in Bahawalpur and other parts of the district as all alleged killers have reportedly been arrested. Police have not disclosed any information regarding the arrests, but claim they have solved the mystery.
Punjab IGP Malik Asif Hayat is likely to make public the arrest of killers in a Press conference on Nov 5. Meanwhile, three constables - Ajmal, Iqbal and Ashiq - deployed as guard at the ST. Dominican Church have been suspended from service for negligence of duty. Only the deceased constable, Saleem Bhatti, was on duty at the time of attack on the church. The other constables claimed that they had gone for breakfast.