Terror returns to Lahore: Mosques targeted

Terrorists wearing suicide vests and armed with grenades and assault rifles on Friday stormed two packed mosques of the minority Ahmadiya sect in this eastern Pakistani city, killing about 80 people, including a retired lieutenant general and a journalist, and injuring scores more. In one of the deadliest coordinated attacks, two groups of terrorists targeted mosques at heavily-congested Garhi Shahu and the posh Model Town area at around 1.45 pm when worshippers were about
to start the prayers.
Reports received from different hospitals put the death toll at “around 80”, district administration chief Sajjad Bhutta told reporters. Other officials said nearly 100 people were injured, some of them seriously. A retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army was killed when the terrorists stormed the mosque in Model Town.
A journalist of a Lahore-based TV channel was wounded while covering the assault at Garhi Shahu and later succumbed to his injuries.
A Punjabi faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attacks, Geo News channel reported. Witnesses said eight to 10 terrorists were involved in the two attacks. Three attackers at Garhi Shahu blew themselves up by detonating their suicide vests, Bhutta said. Their heads were found by investigators, he added. At least two attackers were arrested at Model Town and one them was injured, provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said. The injured attacker was operated on at Jinnah Hospital. The fate of the remaining attackers could not immediately be ascertained.
The injured were taken to five hospitals, where doctors performed emergency surgeries on several persons with serious wounds. Hospital authorities also made appeals for blood donations. Seven policemen, including superintendent of police Haider Ashraf, were injured in the exchange of fire with the terrorists. The police brought the situation at the Model Town mosque under control a little over an hour after the attack began. The operation to clear the mosque at Garhi Shahu, where several terrorists took up positions on a minaret and the rooftop, ended after 4 pm. Witnesses said several of the terrorists who stormed the mosques were wearing suicide vests.
Firing indiscriminately and lobbing grenades, they entered the mosques killing policemen and security guards deployed at the gates. TV channels aired dramatic footage of policemen advancing towards the mosques and exchanging fire with the attackers. They also beamed footage of terrorists firing at security forces from a minaret and the rooftop of the mosque in Garhi Shahu. The police and paramilitary forces surrounded the two mosques and took up positions on roads and roof tops around the mosques. Officials said security forces recovered several AK-47s, grenades and suicide vests at the site of the attacks. Both mosques are frequented by around 1,000 worshippers, including women, on Fridays. Hundreds of people were inside when the terrorists stormed the mosque. Some men and women locked themselves in rooms and prayer halls inside the mosques.
In a statement, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Asma Jahangir said the body had warned the Punjab government about threats to the Ahmadiya community centre in Model Town for more than a year. Ahmadiyas, a religious movement founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), are reviled as heretics by other Muslims for their belief that their sect’s founder was a saviour foretold by the Quran.

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