May 28th, 2010
09:02 AM ET

At least 47 killed in Lahore attacks

Islamabad, Pakistan - Bombing attacks in Pakistan targeting houses of worship for a persecuted religious minority have killed at least 47 people, officials said on Friday. The strikes took place at two mosques in Lahore belonging to the Ahmadi religious group.

At least 20 people were killed at the Baitul Noor place of worship in the Model Town region after two attackers on motorbikes fired at the entrance of the building and tossed hand grenades, a rescue official told CNN.

Police have since cleared the scene, and one of the attackers is critically injured. The other clad in a suicide jacket was detained.

In the other location, Garhi Shahu, at least five bodies were recovered, the official said. One witness there told CNN he saw two attackers armed with AK-47s and another witness said he saw at least four gunmen.

Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslim. But the government says they aren't and many Muslim extremists have targeted them.

The group, which is thought to number between 3 and 4 million people in the country, endures "the most severe legal restrictions and officially-sanctioned discrimination" among Pakistan's religious minorities, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government commission, said in its latest annual report that "Ahmadis may not call their places of worship 'mosques,' worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms which are otherwise open to all Muslims, perform the Muslim call to prayer, use the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quote from the Koran, or display the basic affirmation of the Muslim faith."

The agency says it's illegal for the group to preach publicly, pursue converts, pass out religious material, restricted from holding public conferences and traveling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage.

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