80 killed as gunmen storm Lahore mosques

80 killed as gunmen storm Lahore mosques Zeenews Bureau

Lahore: Lahore: Lobbing grenades and firing indiscriminately, Taliban guerrillas stormed two mosques of the minority Ahmadi sect Friday, leaving over 80 people dead and many more injured before paramilitary and police commandos regained control of the two buildings after a three-hour operation, police and eyewitnesses said.

Reports received from different hospitals put the death toll at "around 80", District Administration Chief Sajjad Bhutta told reporters.

Other officials said nearly 100 people were injured, some of them seriously.

Among the dead in attacks on the mosques located in the upscale Model Town and the heavily-congested area of Garhi Shahu was a retired Lt General and a journalist, officials said.

Firing indiscriminately from automatic rifles and lobbing grenades, the militants ran into the two mosques of the Ahamadis, situated 15 kms apart in coordinated attacks, seized hostages and set off running battles with the police.

A Punjabi wing of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Two groups of terrorists launched coordinated attacks, at around 1.45 pm local time, on two mosques located in Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas.

Over 1,500 worshippers were offering Friday prayers in the sprawling mosque complex at Model Town, when at least three terrorists scaled the walls of the mosque and started indiscriminately firing at them. Many explosions were also heard.

Geo News channel said that seven terrorists had attacked the Model Town mosque and five of them were killed by the security forces. It said one attacker was captured. The fate of the remaining attackers could not immediately be ascertained.

Three attackers at Garhi Shahu blew themselves up by detonating their suicide vests and their heads had been found, Bhutta said.

Ten gunmen were holed up inside the mosque along with around 1000 worshippers who have been held hostage. The operation to clear the mosque at Garhi Shahu, where several terrorists took up positions on a minaret and the rooftop, ended after 4 pm local time.

TV channels aired dramatic footage of policemen advancing towards the mosques and exchanging fire with the attackers.

They also beamed footage of one terrorist firing at security forces from a minaret of the mosque in Garhi Shahu.

Police and paramilitary forces surrounded the mosque and took up positions on roads and roof tops around it. Explosions are being heard from inside the mosque.

"According to reports received from different hospitals, the death toll is more than 70," district administration chief Sajjad Bhutta told reporters outside Mayo Hospital.

Seventy eight people were injured in the attacks, he said.

Over 20 people were killed in the mosque at Model Town and more than 40 died at Garhi Shahu, state-run Rescue Service spokesman Fahim Jahanzeb told PTI.

The injured were taken to five hospitals, where doctors performed emergency surgeries on several of them.

Hospital authorities also made appeals for blood donations.

-Agencies inputs