LAHORE, Pakistan — Gunmen stormed two Pakistani mosques belonging to a minority Muslim sect in Lahore on Friday, seizing hostages among worshippers, setting off grenades and sparking a bloody shootout with police.
Gunfire and explosions rang out at the mosques — one in the upscale neighbourhood of Model Town, where a suicide car bomber struck in March, and the second in the heavily congested area of Garhi Shahu.
They are both mosques of the Ahmadis, also known as Qadiani, and have tens of thousands of members. Rights groups say the sect has long been persecuted in Pakistan and has remained an occasional target of sectarian attacks.
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“Terrorists have attacked mosques. They are firing and using grenades. They have taken people inside the mosque hostage,” district civil defence official Muzhar Ahmed told AFP by telephone from the scene in Garhi Shahu.
Lahore, a city of eight million near Pakistan’s border with India, has been increasingly subject to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked attacks in a nationwide bombing campaign that has killed more than 3,300 people in three years.
Founded by Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1838, the Ahmadi sect has a number of unique views including that Ahmad himself was a prophet and that Jesus died aged 120 in Srinagar, capital of Indian-ruled Kashmir.
Note: It is our policy to file stories about Islam-related hate crimes under the ‘Hate Groups’ topic.