Gunmen attack 2 mosques belonging to minority sect in Pakistan; 20 people killed

By Babar Dogar, AP
Friday, May 28, 2010

20 killed in attack on 2 sect mosques in Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan — An emergency worker says 20 people have been killed at one of the two mosques attacked in eastern Pakistan.

Dr Rizan Nasir says fighting was still going on Friday at the other mosque in the city of Lahore.

Gunmen armed with grenades attacked the mosques during Friday prayers.

The mosques belong to a minority sect that has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by radical Sunnis.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Gunmen armed with grenades attacked two mosques of to a minority sect during prayers in eastern Pakistan on Friday, seizing control of one them and battling with police, officials and witnesses said. Several people were killed and worshippers were believed held hostage.

The attacks in Lahore city were against the Ahmadi sect, which has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by radical Sunnis. It has never before been hit on such a large scale or coordinated fashion.

One of the attackers climbed atop the minaret of one of the mosques, firing an assault rifle and throwing hand grenades, TV footage showed. Outside, police were engaged in a fierce gunfight with the attackers, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.

Police officer Imtiaz Ahmad said several attackers were inside and were suspected to be holding hostages.

Outside the other mosque several kilometers (miles) away, a witness complained of police inaction when the attackers struck.

“I asked the policeman to open fire. He told me he could not because he only had four bullets in his gun,” said Ghalib Hussain.

Emergency worker Fahim Jehanzeb said “several” people had been confirmed killed, but that the death toll was likely to be higher.

Pakistan has seen scores of attacks by groups of Islamist militants against government, Western and security force targets over the past three years. Lahore, the second largest city in the country and a vital a military and political center, has been the scene of several.

Many Islamist militants believe it is permissible or honorable to kill non-Muslims, or even those Muslims who do not share their views.

The Ahmadis call themselves Muslims but believe their founder declared himself a prophet centuries after Muhammad, who other Muslims believe was the final prophet. They have long been subject to informal and state-sanctioned discrimination in Pakistan.

The government has declared them a non-Muslim minority and they are prohibited from calling themselves Muslims or engaging in Muslim practices such as reciting Islamic prayers.

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