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Headline News
80 die as gunmen 2 storm mosques

Published Date: May 29, 2010 

LAHORE: Suspected Islamist militants attacked two mosques packed with hundreds 
of worshippers from a minority sect in eastern Pakistan yesterday, holding 
hostages and battling police, officials and witnesses said. Some 80 people 
died, and dozens were wounded in the worst attack ever against the Ahmadi sect. 
The assaults in Lahore were carried out by at least seven men, including three 
suicide bombers, officials said.

Two attackers were captured. At one point, a gunman fired bullets from atop a 
minaret. It was one of the first times militants have deployed gun and suicide 
squads and taken hostages in a coordinated attack on a religious minority in 
Pakistan. Shiite Muslims have borne the brunt of individual suicide bombings 
and targeted killings for years, though Christians and Ahmadis also have faced 

The long-standing threat to minorities in this Muslim-majority, US allied 
nation has been exacerbated as the Sunni extremist Taleban and Al-Qaeda 
movements have spread. Ahmadis are reviled as heretics by mainstream Muslims 
for their belief that their sect's founder was a savior foretold by the Quran, 
Islam's holy book.

The group has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and 
occasional attacks by radical Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, but never before in 
such a large and coordinated fashion. The attacks yesterday took place in the 
Model Town and Garhi Shahu neighborhoods of Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest 
city and one of its politically and militarily most important.

The assault at Model Town was relatively brief, and involved four attackers 
spraying worshippers with bullets before exploding hand grenades, said Sajjad 
Bhutta, Lahore's deputy commissioner. Several kilometers away at Garhi Shahu, 
the standoff lasted around four hours. TV footage showed an attacker atop a 
minaret of the mosque at one point in the siege, firing an assault rifle and 
throwing hand grenades.

Outside, police traded bullets with the gunmen, an Associated Press reporter 
saw. Luqman Ahmad, 36, was sitting and waiting for prayers to start when he 
heard gunshots and then an explosion. He quickly lay down and closed his eyes. 
"It was like a war going on around me. The cries I heard sent chills down my 
spine," Ahmad said. "I kept on praying that may God save me from this hell.

After police commandos announced the attackers had died, he stood to see bodies 
and blood everywhere. "I cannot understand what logic these terrorists have by 
attacking worshippers, and harmless people like us," he said. Bhutta said at 
least three attackers held several people hostage inside the Garhi Shahu 
mosque. The three wore jackets filled with ammunition. "They fought the police 
for some time, but on seeing they were being defeated they exploded 
themselves," he said.

Around 80 people were killed in the two attacks, while more than 80 were 
wounded, Bhutta said. A breakdown for each location was not immediately 
available. Two attackers were caught, and one was being treated for wounds, 
Punjab province police chief Tariq Saleem Dogar said. An initial investigation 
found that one detained suspect was from southern Punjab but had studied at a 
religious school in the port city of Karachi, Punjab's law minister said.

Before the attack, the suspect stayed at a center belonging to Tableeghi 
Jamaat, a conservative Muslim missionary group, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah 
Khan said. The group has occasionally drawn attention in connection with 
international terror investigations, but says that it is not violent. Geo TV 
reported that the Punjab province branch of the Pakistani Taleban had claimed 
responsibility, however, such attacks often spur unverifiable claims of 
responsibility from various groups.

The province's top executive, chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, appealed for calm. 
"We, our security forces will fight this menace till the end," he said. 
"Attacks on places of worship is barbarianism. It is a shame to cause bloodshed 
in mosques." Muslim leaders have accused Ahmadis of defying the basic tenet of 
Islam that says Muhammad was the final prophet, but Ahmadis argue their leader 
was the savior rather than a prophet.

Under pressure from hard-liners, the Pakistani government in the 1970s declared 
the Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority. They are prohibited from calling themselves 
Muslims or engaging in Muslim practices such as reciting Islamic prayers. A 
US-based Ahmadi spokesman, Waseem Sayed, said the sect abhors violence and was 
deeply concerned about the attacks. He estimated Pakistan, a country of 180 
million, had around 5 million Ahmadis.

Worldwide he estimated there were tens of millions of Ahmadis, but said that 
they have faced the most violence in Pakistan, and that this was the worst 
attack in the history of the sect. "We are a peaceful people and monitoring the 
situation and hoping and praying that the authorities are able to take all 
necessary action to bring the situation to normalcy with the least number of 
casualties," Sayed said via email.

Also yesterday, a suspected US missile strike killed 11 alleged militants and 
wounded three others in the Nazai Narai area of South Waziristan tribal region, 
two intelligence officials said. The exact identities of the dead were not 
immediately clear, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity 
because they are not authorized to speak to media on the record.

The US does not publicly acknowledge the missile program. Pakistani publicly 
protests the strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but is widely believed 
to secretly aid the attacks on Taleban and Al-Qaeda targets. Pakistan has 
staged military operations against Taleban militants in its tribal regions, 
which stretch along the Afghan border and have long had little government 

Army fighter planes destroyed at least 10 suspected militant hideouts and one 
dozen vehicles in the Orakzai tribal region yesterday, killing at least 80 
insurgents, administration official Samiullah Khan said, Information from the 
tribal areas is nearly impossible to verify independently, because the areas 
are remote, dangerous and entry to them is largely restricted.

In Pakistan's southwest Baluchistan province yesterday, gunmen on a motorcycle 
killed four police officers in Quetta city. One of the slain officers had 
helped arrest militants from the banned Sunni extremist group 
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, senior police official Naveed Ahmed said. But Ahmed did not 
blame any group for the attack, saying the investigation was continuing. _ AP

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