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Asia-pacific

Gunmen attack Lahore hospital killing at least four

©

Video by Pauline GODART , Stephen Clarke

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-01

Armed men attacked a hospital in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore early Tuesday morning, firing indiscriminately and killing at least four people before fleeing the scene, according to reports.

AFP - Gunmen stormed a Pakistani hospital where victims of attacks on Ahmadi mosques were being treated late Monday, killing at least four people in a shootout with security forces, police said. 

Disguised in police uniforms, they targeted the Jinnah Hospital in the eastern city of Lahore, where at least 30 victims and one of the alleged attackers in Friday's suicide, gun and grenade attack on the minority sect were being treated.

"They started indiscriminate firing outside the emergency ward and intensive care unit," Doctor Javed Akram told reporters. 

Police said at least four people -- three policemen and a woman -- were killed after four gunmen rampaged into the hospital from the back. 

Akram, who had initially put the death toll at 12, said that at least 30 wounded Ahmadis had been admitted to the hospital and that one of the alleged attackers of Friday's devastating attacks was being treated in a private room. 

Armoured police vans raced to the scene but commanders said the attackers quickly fled. 

"The operation is over," said official Shafiq Gujar. "It appears the attackers wanted to kill or release the accused (attacker)." 

Witnesses told AFP they heard heavy gunfire reverberate around the hospital for at least 15 minutes.

The assault came three days after suspected Sunni Muslim militants wearing suicide vests burst into two Ahmadi prayer halls in two neighbourhoods of Lahore and killed 82 worshippers. 

They were the worst attacks in Pakistan since a suicide bomber killed 101 people on January 1 at a volleyball game in Bannu, which abuts the tribal belt along the Afghan border that Washington calls Al-Qaeda headquarters. 

Pakistan's leading rights group said the Ahmadi community had received threats for more than a year and officials blamed the attack on Islamist militants who have killed more than 3,370 people in bombings over the last three years. 

A city of eight million people and widely considered Pakistan's cultural capital, Lahore has increasingly suffered Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence, with around 265 people killed in nine attacks since March 2009. 

Lahore is a playground for Pakistan's elite and home to many top brass in its military and intelligence establishment.  

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have orchestrated the three-year bombing campaign in Pakistan to avenge military operations and the government's alliance with the United States over the war in neighbouring Afghanistan. 

Founded by Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1838, the Ahmadi sect believes that Ahmad himself was a prophet and that Jesus died aged 120 in Srinagar, capital of Indian-ruled Kashmir. 

Pakistan declared them non-Muslims in 1974 and 10 years later they were barred from calling themselves Muslims. 

Religious violence in Pakistan, mostly between majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shiites, has killed more than 4,000 people in the past decade.

Date created : 2010-05-31

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