Gunmen attacked worshipers from a minority sect in two areas of the eastern city of Lahore yesterday, taking hostages and killing at least 30 people, government and police officials said.
Dozens of people were wounded in the attacks.
The gunmen opened fire shortly after Friday prayers and threw what could have been grenades at two Ahmadi mosques in residential neighborhoods.
“There are some hostages and we are planning an attack,” said Haider Ashraf, a senior police office in the neighbourhood of Garhi Shahu. “Their lives are under threat.”
One TV channel showed a gunman firing at police from a tower of one of the mosques.
A reporter saw police take positions and crawl towards the building where gunmen were still present in the mosque in Garhi Shahu.
In Model Town, site of the other attack, police said one gunmen had been arrested and another killed. Other attackers escaped and one fired at a television van before the area was made safe.
“He was young, clean-shaven. He sprayed bullets at our van while fleeing the scene,” said Rabia Mehmood, a reporter for Express Television.
Witnesses said the assaults began shortly after prayers.
“I saw some gunmen run towards the Ahmadis’ place of worship and then I heard blasts and gunfire,” said Mohammad Nawaz, a resident.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion quickly fell on the Pakistani Taliban.
“The operation is not even over yet, so its too early to say who is behind these attacks. But my guess is that like most other attacks, there would be some link to the Taliban or their associated militants,” a Lahore-based security official said.
Ahmadis are a minority Muslim sect founded in the late 19th century by Ghulam Ahmad. The Ahmadi sect has a number of unique views including that Ahmad himself was a prophet and that Jesus died aged 120 in Srinagar.
Pakistan is the only Muslim state to have declared Ahmadis non-Muslims.
Its 4 million-odd members have seen their religious rights in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan curtailed by law.