Deaths in Pakistan mosques raids
The gun battle between security forces and the attackers reportedly lasted up 
to 45 minutes [AFP]

Assailants with guns and grenades have attacked two mosques in the eastern 
Pakistani city of Lahore, killing at least 70 people.

The co-ordinated assaults on mosques of the minority Ahmadi sect wounded scores 
more in different residential neighbourhoods of the city shortly after Friday 
prayers, police said.

The armed men, including three suicide bombers, stormed into the prayer halls 
firing guns, throwing grenades and reportedly taking hostages, police said.

Sajjad Bhutta, the deputy commissioner of Lahore, said at least 70 people were 
killed in the twin attacks on mosques in Garhi Shahu and Model Town, while at 
least 78 others were injured.

The assault at Model Town was brief, and involved four attackers opening fire 
on worshippers before exploding hand grenades, Bhutta said.

'Well co-ordinated attack'

Bhutta said the death toll at Garhi Shahu was higher because three attackers 
blew themselves up with suicide vests packed with explosives when police tried 
to enter the building.

TV footage showed that one assailant had clambered atop the minaret of one of 
the mosques and was throwing hand grenades.
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"They fought the police for some time, but on seeing they were being defeated 
they exploded themselves," he said.

Police later arrested two attackers.

Daniyal Hassan, a reporter for the Pakistani Dawn News, near one of the attack 
sites, told Al Jazeera: "The worshipers were busy with their prayers and heard 
gunfire and some explosions, which I believe were used as a diversion to scare 
away the security guards outside.

"The crossfire between police officials and attackers continued for about 30 to 
45 minutes. The injured have been taken to hospital.

"It [was] a well co-ordinated attack."

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, where the attacks took 
place, appealed for calm after the fighting. He said the incidents would 
generate greater resolve to fight "extremism".

"It's a reminder to the nation that Pakistan will achieve its destiny only 
after we get rid of the worst type of extremism and fundamentalism," he told a 
news conference.

"We, our security forces will fight this menace till the end.

"Attacks on places of worship is barbarianism. It is a shame to cause bloodshed 
in mosques."

Target of discrimination

Ahmadi Muslims have been targeted by Sunni groups and suffered discrimination 
in Pakistan in the past.

They call themselves Muslims but believe that Muhammad was not the final 
prophet. This view contradicts a central Islamic belief.

Lahore is the second largest city in the country and a vital military and 
political centre. It has been the scene of several attacks by opposition groups.

Raza Rumi, a policy analyst and editor of Pakistan's weekly Friday Times 
publication in Lahore said the attack marked a "very sad day" for both the city 
and Pakistan as a whole.

"The way this minority sect has been hounded for the past three decades has 
come to such a pass that you now have acts of violence even in private spaces 
of worship," he told Al Jazeera.

"Their rights to worship and pray are not being adhered to.

"Since the late 19th century, their founder declared himself to be a messiah or 
prophet of sorts. In Islam, the finality of Prophet Muhammad as the final 
prophet is part of the Muslim belief system.

"So the Ahmadis were deviating from that and that has always irked 
fundamentalist Muslims.

"[However] not just moderate Muslims, but even the very devout and staunch 
Muslims of Pakistan do not support this act of terror."

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