Teams of gunmen and suicide bombers simultaneously attacked two mosques packed with hundreds of worshippers from the minority Ahmadiyya sect in two different districts of Lahore during Friday prayers May 28, taking hundreds of hostages and battling the police as authorities responded. Some 80 worshippers were killed, and dozens wounded in the worst attack ever against the Ahmadi sect. One attacker was killed and two were arrested; the remainder, numbered at some 10, presumably escaped. At least one of the detained had a suicide belt. Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab claimed responsibility for the attacks, Pakistani TV reported. (AP, NYT, The Financial, May 28)
United Nations human rights officials called on the Pakistani government to take every step to ensure the safety of religious minorities after the attacks, noting that numerous early warning signs had not been properly heeded. “Members of this religious community have faced continuous threats, discrimination and violent attacks in Pakistan,” the experts said in a joint statement on the attack, which was also condemned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Pakistan’s government harshly condemned the attacks. But the experts noted that in Pakistan and elsewhere, Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslims and have been subject to institutionalized discrimination. This emboldens opinion makers who seek to fuel hatred and perpetrators of attacks against religious minorities, the experts said.
The independent experts—Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion Asma Jahangir, Independent Expert on minority issues Gay McDougall, and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston—report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity. (UN News Centre, May 28)
In a press release, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat identified the two mosques as the Baitul Nur Mosque in Lahore’s Model Town district and the Darul Zikr Mosque in Gharishaw district. The statement called the attacks “the culmination of years of un-policed persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaa.” In 1974 legislation was passed that declared Ahmadis to be “non-Muslim,” and in 1984 new legislation actually outlawed practice of the faith. Reads the statement: “At regular intervals since then Ahmadis have been attacked but today’s attack is the most cruel and barbaric. All Ahmadis, who are based in 195 countries, are peace loving and tolerant people and yet they are continually targeted by extremist factions.”
At his Friday sermon in London, His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, stated: “Today two of our mosques in Lahore were attacked by extremists. At the moment we do not have full details of what has happened. It is clear though that a number of our Ahmadis have been killed and many others have been injured. These people had merely come to the mosque to offer their Friday prayers and yet became victims of a heinous terrorist attack. May God grant patience to the bereaved and elevate the status of those who have been martyred.” (Via PR Newswire, May 28)