As Friday prayers came to a close on May 28, 2010 in Lahore, Pakistan, seven terrorists wielding guns, grenades and suicide vests stormed into two crowded Ahmadi Muslim mosques and opened fire, killing 94 victims and injuring more than 120. The coordinated attacks took place just minutes apart.
At the Bait-ul-Noor Mosque in Model Town—an upscale neighborhood in Lahore—people ran for their lives as three gunmen entered with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, opening fire on security personnel and worshippers alike. The attack lasted more than one hour as the attackers shot into the horrified crowd. Twenty-seven people were killed.
Several miles away, near Lahore’s main railway station, another three attackers barged into the Dar-ul-Zakir mosque with the same destructive intentions. They sprayed bullets into the congregation and took several hundred people hostage. A three-hour standoff ensued, as police and terrorists exchanged gunfire. Two of the attackers then detonated their suicide vests, killing 67.
The nightmare didn’t end for survivors the day of the mosque attacks. A few days later, gunmen attacked the intensive-care Unit of Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, where victims and one of the alleged attackers were recovering. Twelve more people, including police officers and hospital staff, were killed. The attackers escaped.
A Punjab provincial chapter of the Taliban took responsibility for all the attacks.
Although the incidents came as a horrifying surprise, a leader at the Model Town mosque expressed that they had been receiving threatening phone calls in the weeks prior to the attacks. When Mosque leaders reached out to the police for more security, they received no response.
Unfortunately, threats and violence are nothing new for the Ahmadi, who are always met with discrimination from majority Muslim sects. Though the Ahmadi consider themselves Muslim, Pakistani law does not. Even an act as simple as declaring themselves Muslim is considered blasphemy under the law, and can be punished with fines, prison time or death. Sunni Muslim conservatives have led a recent campaign to ostracize the Ahmadis, and Sunni extremists have made them the targets of violence.
The victims of the attacks were buried in Rabwah—the home to the Ahmadi’s religious headquarters. Although Pakistani ministers, politicians and other prominent figures issued statements of condemnation toward the attackers and their actions, none of them attended the services—likely due to fear of political and religious backlash for publicly supporting the much-maligned sect.