Bomb in Nepal Church Kills 2

A bomb exploded Saturday in a Roman Catholic church in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, killing two and injuring a dozen.

The explosion occurred at 9.15 a.m. at the Assumption Church in Dhobighat in Lalipur district, police said.

There were at least 500 people attending the church service when the blast went off. Since Sundays are working days, Christians usually attend church on Saturdays when schools and offices remain closed.

Two have been reported dead and 15 others injured. The dead have been identified as Celestina Joseph, a 15-year-old student, and Pabitra Paitra, a 30-year old housewife. Those wounded were admitted to the nearby Patan Hospital.

The general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Nepal, Dr. K.B. Rokaya, told Christian Today that he was deeply pained by the incident that "occurred in one of the largest churches in Nepal."

"This is a very sad incident," he commented. "This is going to affect the harmonious co-existence and religious tolerance of Nepal. This certainly should be condemned as innocent people have died."

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, initial investigation suggests the involvement of a Hindu extremist group, the Nepal Defense Army. Pamphlets from the National Defense Army were found in the blast site.

"This is a newly emerged Hindu group. In the past too there have been such incidents against Christians which the group was involved," Rokaya pointed out.

The same extremist group had last year murdered Indian priest Fr. John Prakash. The 60-year-old Salesian priest, who served as the principal of Don Bosco Christian school in Sirsiya, Morang district, was shot dead by five masked men at his residence.

NDA, which wants to restore Nepal as an exclusive Hindu nation, has been responsible for several bomb blasts across Nepal since 2006.

Nepal had been a monarchy throughout most of its history. After it was declared a federal democratic republic in May 28, 2008, the country had not witnessed any attack of this sort on churches.

The explosion comes amid recent political turmoil and as the country is in the process of forming a new government.

The majority (80 percent) of Nepal's population is Hindu. Christians only make up 0.5 percent of the population.