Islamabad, Pakistan (NEWS.GNOM.ES) — Bombing and firearms attacks in Pakistan targeting houses of worship for a persecuted religious minority killed at least 70 people Friday, a senior government official said.
The strikes took place at two mosques in Lahore belonging to the Ahmadi religious group, police and rescue officials said.
At the Baitul Noor place of worship in the Model Town region, two attackers on motorbikes fired at the entrance of the building and tossed hand grenades, a rescue official told NEWS.GNOM.ES. Police said one of the attackers is critically injured. The other, clad in a suicide jacket, was detained.
At a mosque in the Garhi Shahu neighborhood, one witness there told NEWS.GNOM.ES he saw two attackers armed with AK-47s and another witness said he saw at least four gunmen. Sajjad Bhutta, the senior official, said the heads of three suicide bombers were discovered there.
Bhutta said at least 78 people were injured in the violence.
Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslim. But the government says they aren’t and many Muslim extremists have targeted them. Sunni and Shia Muslims do not regard followers of the religion as Muslims because they do not regard Mohammed as the last prophet sent by God.
The movement was founded in 1889. Its followers believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) was sent by God as a prophet “to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace,” the worldwide Ahmadi group says.
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.
The commission, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government body, said in its latest annual report that “Ahmadis may not call their places of worship ‘mosques,’ worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms which are otherwise open
to all Muslims, perform the Muslim call to prayer, use the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quote from the Koran, or display the basic affirmation of the Muslim faith.”
The agency says it’s illegal for the group to preach publicly, pursue converts, or pass out religious material, and adherents are restricted from holding public conferences and traveling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage.
While its greatest number of followers are in Pakistan and India, it has a presence in many European countries, such as the Britain, where the religion’s fifth and current spiritual head, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, resides