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Pakistani officials say at least seven people have been killed and about 30 injured in a suicide attack on a church in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Balochistan Province Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said that two militants were involved in the December 17 assault on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, the provincial capital.

Bugti said that one bomber detonated his suicide vest at the gate of the church, where about 400 men, women, and children had gathered for Sunday services ahead of Christmas.

Another attacker was shot dead by security forces before he could detonate his explosives-filled vest, he said.

Provincial police chief Moazzam Ansari said that "all the victims were inside the church building, as the suicide bomber blew up himself at the gate."

"So the deaths and injuries were mainly caused by shrapnel and splinters from the gate and windows," he added.

Two women were said to be among the dead.

The injured were rushed to the main hospitals of the city.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Christians make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Pakistan's 200 million people. Along with other religious minorities, the community has faced discrimination and attacks by Islamic militants.

The resource-rich Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, has been plagued by sectarian violence, Islamist militant attacks, and a separatist insurgency that has led to thousands of casualties since 2004.

On November 25, at least four people were killed and more than 20 wounded by a suicide bomber who attacked an army vehicle on the outskirts of Quetta. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.

With reporting by AFP
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