QUETTA (AFP) - Islamic State group has claimed the responsibility of a suicide bomb attack on a Quetta church on Sunday which claimed nine lives and wounded at least 57 other.
Two women were among the dead at a Methodist church in Quetta the provincial capital of Balochistan province, said provincial Home Secretary Akbar Harifal.
Several of the wounded were in serious condition, police added.
Officials said police intercepted and shot dead one attacker outside the church before he could detonate his bomb. But the second managed to reach the church s main door, where he blew himself up.
"Police were quick to react and stop the attackers from entering into the main hall," provincial police chief Moazzam Jah told AFP.
Each attacker was carrying 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosive plus grenades, said civil defence official Aslam Tareen.
IS, in a brief statement on its Amaq news agency, claimed responsibility.
Balochistan provincial home minister Sarfraz Bugti said around 250 people normally attend the church on Sundays, but the congregation had swelled to around 400 because it was close to Christmas.
"God forbid, if the terrorists had succeeded in their plans more than 400 precious lives would have been at stake," tweeted the home minister.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw shattered pews, shoes and broken musical instruments littered across the blood-smeared floor of the church.
Liaqat Masih, a member of the congregation, said he was heartbroken by the violence and feared for his life as the firefight erupted between one attacker and police, who were later reinforced by paramilitaries and regular troops.
"I am devastated to see many of our dear ones dead and wounded today here in front of me," said Masih, 35.
Hours after the attack reports surfaced that a total of four attackers had been involved, with two escaping.
Senior police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema said investigators were analysing CCTV footage to check the claim and had launched a search for any further suspects.