A suicide bomb and gun attack on a Methodist church in Pakistan has killed nine people and 56 were severely wounded.
Militants stormed the church, which was packed with worshippers at the time, in the city of Quetta, some 65km (40 miles) from the Afghan border.
The Islamic State group has said it carried out the attack.
Two suicide bombers were stopped at the entrance to the church, Sarfraz Bugti, the Balochistan region's home minister, said.
Had the men got any further, there could have been hundreds of casualties, he added.
One of the men detonated his bomb vest and the other was stopped in a gunfight with police. Two more attackers fled and a search operation is under way, according to reports.
Christians make up at least 2 percent of the country’s population of about 198 million. Most of them are marginalized and perform menial jobs. “Law enforcement agencies have badly failed in protecting Christians and other minorities.
The attack, a week before the Christmas holiday, unfolded in the early morning hours at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church. About 400 people had gathered for Sunday service when an assailant detonated his explosives-laden vest near the door to the church’s main hall. A second attacker fired upon worshippers, before being killed by security forces.
Broken wooden benches, shards of glass and musical instruments were scattered around a Christmas tree inside the prayer hall that was splashed with blood stains.
The assault raised concerns about the security of religious minorities, especially Christians, in a country with a dismal record when it comes to the treatment and protection of religious minorities, analysts say.
Pakistani officials denied that ISIS had an organized presence in the country, however, even though the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Baluchistan in recent years.