10/07/2005

8 Killed and 20 Wounded in Attack on Pakistan Mosque - New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Oct. 7 - Eight people were killed today and 20 wounded, many seriously, in an attack on the congregation of a minority Muslim sect in central Pakistan.

The assault by two gunmen on the Qadiani sect, also known as Ahmadis and considered heretics by orthodox Muslims, has raised fresh concerns about the protection of minorities in Pakistan, a majority Sunni Muslim state.

President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly vowed, since the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, to rid Pakistan of extremism and sectarianism. Attacks like today's, however, remain frequent and deadly.

Pakistan has been racked by sectarian clashes between the Shiite minority and the Deobandi sect, a puritanical branch of Sunni Islam. The tit-for-tat clashes have resulted in hundreds of deaths on both sides over the last decade. But Christians and Qadianis have also been persecuted and attacked by religious extremists over the years.

The attack today, the second day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, took place as about 40 Qadianis gathered for morning prayers in the village of Mong, near the farming town of Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab Province, 100 miles south of Islamabad, the capital, witnesses said.

Two men, their faces hidden by black hoods, stormed into the mosque and opened fire, killing two others on the spot, Masood Ahmed Raja, a cardiologist, said by telephone.

"I was saved by the angels," Mr. Raja said.

He had been unable to join a prayer session at the mosque, he explained, because he was called away to care for a patient. On returning to the mosque, he said he saw two men running away and escaping with a third man on a motorcycle.

The police said that six of the victims died at a hospital and that two critically wounded people were moved to Lahore, the provincial capital.

8 Killed and 20 Wounded in Attack on Pakistan Mosque - New York Times

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