Nearly 100 dead in Pakistani mosques attacks

 Suspected Islamist militants
attacked two mosques packed with hundreds of worshippers from a minority sect
in eastern Pakistan, 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 violence.

The long-standing threat to
minorities in this Muslim-majority, U.S-allied nation has been exacerbated as
the Sunni extremist Taliban and al-Qaida movements have spread.

Ahmadis are reviled as heretics by
mainstream Muslims for their belief that their sect’s founder was a saviour
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 Friday took place in
the Model Town and Garhi Shahu neighbourhoods 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.

Geo TV reported that the Punjab
province branch of the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility; however,
such attacks often spur unverifiable claims of responsibility from various groups.

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