From Saima Mohsin and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — A blast at a Protestant church in northwest Pakistan killed 77 people and wounded more than 120, a local official said.
The attack took place at the All Saints Church of Pakistan, in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the country’s capital, Islamabad.
Two attackers struck right as services concluded, according to the Peshawar Diocese. “Suicide bombers entered the church compound from the main gate and blew themselves up in the midst of the people,” a statement posted on the diocese website read.
Choir members and children attending Sunday school are among the dead, they said.
The outside of the church was peppered with debris, and crowds of men and rescue officials covered in blood.
The Rev Humphrey S. Peters, Bishop of Peshawar, expressed condolences and called for prayers, but also struck a defiant tone. In a statement, Peters condemned the local government, calling the attack a “total failure” of official efforts to protect minorities.
Christians make up less than 3% of the population in the South Asian nation of 193 million.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and in a statement said he was praying for the recovery of those injured. Sharif said terrorists have “no religion” and that targeting innocents is against Islam.
But Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, of which Peshawar is the capital, is rife with Islamic extremists and has been the site of clashes between Pakistani security forces and militants.
Earlier this month, a roadside bomb in the province killed a top Pakistani general, just a day after officials announced plans to withdraw troops from the region and pursue peace talks with Taliban militants.
A Taliban spokesman said then that there is no ceasefire with the Pakistani government, warning that such attacks will continue.
“We have killed them,” Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said, “as they are killing us.”
Journalist Sophia Saifi and CNN’s Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.