The Punjabi Taliban have taken credit for storming two mosques in Lahore and murdering more than 70 Pakistanis who belonged to a sect of Islam banned by the Pakistani government.
Two squads of heavily armed Taliban fighters entered two mosques in the provincial capital of Punjab during Friday prayers and opened fire and hurled grenades at worshipers of the Ahmadi sect of Islam. The Ahmadis are banned from calling themselves Muslims by the Pakistani government, and the group is widely discriminated against in the country.
While the death tolls have yet to be confirmed, credible reports put the number at over 70 civilians killed and 78 more wounded. Police stormed one of the mosques, and three of the terrorists reportedly detonated their vests. One other terrorist was captured, and the hunt is on for other members of the group, who are said to have fled the scene after holding the survivors hostage and battling with police.
Police have claimed that the men appeared to be Pashtuns from South Waziristan. Several of the attackers are said to have been sporting “long beards” and carried backpacks filled with ammunition and explosives. One of the Taliban fighters who fled after the attack was described by a witness as “young” and “clean-shaven.”
The Movement of the Taliban in Punjab contacted Geo News and said it carried out the attack. The Punjabi Taliban includes members and factions of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in particular is well known for carrying out sectarian terror attacks against minority Shia, Ahmadis, and Christians in Pakistan.
Over the past few years, the Taliban have shown no reservations about striking inside mosques and other religious sites [see list below]. There have been 21 major attacks in mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal.
The most brazen attack took place on Dec. 4, 2009, when a suicide assault team stormed a mosque frequented by military officers in Rawalpindi. Two senior generals were among the 40 people killed.
Today’s terror attacks in Lahore are the first in the eastern city since mid-March. On March 8, a suicide bomber rammed his car packed with explosives into a Federal Investigation Agency building, killing 11 people. Four days later, on March 12, a pair of suicide bombers attacked Pakistani Army vehicles at a bazaar in a military cantonment in the city, killing more than 50 people.
Major attacks at mosques, religious events, and Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007:
May 28, 2010: The Punjabi Taliban assaulted two Ahamadi mosques in Lahore, killing more than 70 people.
Dec. 18, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated inside a mosque frequented by policemen in Lower Dir, killing 12.
Dec. 4, 2009: A suicide assault team stormed a mosque in Rawalpindi that is frequented by Army officers, killing 40.
Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad’s International Islamic University, killing five.
June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed five Pakistanis, including anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, in an attack on a mosque in Lahore during Friday prayers.
June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six worshipers and wounded more than 90 in an attack inside a mosque in Nowshera. The attack collapsed the dome of the mosque.
June 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 49 worshipers in an attack on a mosque in a remote village in Dir.
April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshipers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside a Shia religious center in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.
March 27, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers and wounded more than 125 in an attack at a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency.
March 5, 2009: An attacker threw a hand grenade into the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, wounding 25 worshipers.
March 2, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six people during an attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan.
Feb. 20, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered in Dera Ismail Khan.
Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside a mosque killed more than 30 Shia worshipers and wounded more than 50.
Nov. 22, 2008: A bombing at a mosque in Hangu killed five civilians and wounded seven.
Nov. 21, 2008: A suicide attack on a funeral procession in Dera Ismail Khan killed 10 mourners and wounded more than 25.
Sept. 10, 2008: The Taliban attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshipers in the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshipers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.
Aug. 19, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 after detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.
June 17, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in a bombing at a Shia mosque in Dera Ismail Khan.
May 19, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed in a bombing outside a mosque in Bajaur.
Jan. 17, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 10 and wounded 25 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar.
Dec. 28, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a mosque in Charsadda in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and more than 200 were wounded.
Sources for the report on May 28 attack in Lahore:
The New York Times: Sectarian attacks hit two Pakistani mosques
Geo News: Lahore attacks leave at least 70 dead
Al Jazeera: Many dead in Pakistan mosques raid
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.