By David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan –The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says it warned of a possible attack, urging the government “to provide fool proof security to the Ahmadi community.”
Unknown gunmen have launched simultaneous raids on two mosques of the minority Ahmadi Islamic sect in Lahore, killing more than 80 people, Pakistani police say. The attackers fired guns and threw grenades at worshippers during Friday prayers. Three militants later blew themselves up with suicide vests. Pakistani forces have secured both buildings, but are still searching for militants who fled the scene.
Lahore has been the scene of a string of brazen attacks. It is unclear who carried out the attacks, but suspicion has fallen on the Pakistani Taliban, Ali Dayan Hassan of Human Rights Watch told the BBC. Mr Hassan said the worshippers were “easy targets” for militant Sunni groups who consider the Ahmadis to be infidels.
Shiite Muslims have borne the brunt of individual suicide bombings and targeted killings for years in Sunni-majority Pakistan, though Christians and Ahmadis have also faced violence. The long-standing sectarian violence in the country has been exacerbated by the rise of the Sunni extremist Taliban and al-Qaida movements.
Pakistan’s Geo TV channel said the Punjab province branch of the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility; however, repeated attempts by the Associated Press to reach the group were not successful. The Pakistani Taliban are believed to have played a role in the failed car bomb attempt in New York City’s Times Square earlier this month.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province where the attacks took place, had several remarks following the events, alluding to the fact that that they call themselves Muslims but believe that Muhammad was not the final prophet. This view contradicts a central Islamic belief. 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-scale, sophisticated fashion. The group, which is thought to number between 3 million and 4 million people in the country, endures “the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination” among Pakistan’s religious minorities, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
For more information, please see:
CNN World – At least 80 killed in Lahore attacks – 28 May 2010
Al Jazeera English – Death in Pakistan mosques raids – 28 May 2010
The Huffington Post – Pakistan Mosque Attacks: At Least 80 Killed – 28 May 2010
Image Courtesy of Boston.com