Friday's deadly attacks against a minority Islamic sect in eastern Pakistan hit home on Long Island, where sect members mourned the loss of friends and relatives.
Militants armed with grenades, guns and suicide vests stormed two mosques belonging to the Ahmadi sect in Lahore on Friday, killing an estimated 80 people and injuring scores more in the coordinated attacks.
Some of the about 2,300 Ahmadis in New York City and Long Island lost friends and loved ones in the bombings, according to the president of one local mosque.
"It's a very sad thing, the loss of life in the name of religion," said Zeshan Hamid, 33, a member from Nesconset. Hamid's brother-in-law was among the estimated 80 people killed.
"On the one hand, we know that he was martyred," Hamid said. "On the other hand, he had young children. He was my age."
Militants in Pakistan's second-largest city appeared to time the attacks for the midday Friday prayer, The Associated Press reported. Two attackers were captured, the AP reported.
Ahmadis believe in a successor to the Prophet Muhammad, whom most Muslims hold to be the final prophet of God. Followers of the sect have been persecuted for decades in Pakistan, which outlaws the group from proselytizing or calling itself Muslim.
Hours after the attacks, about 30 Ahmadis gathered at an Amityville mosque for their own Friday afternoon prayers. Some had already heard about deaths from family in Pakistan. "We're just consoling each other," said Arshad Janjua, 60, of Floral Park, the mosque's president. "They need our help, our support."
Hamid, whose brother-in-law died, said his uncle was wounded. "When I spoke with him, he was in shock," Hamid said. "It's going to take a long time for him to heal and get better."
Rashid Alladin, 72, of Syosset, said he lost a distant cousin and lamented the tensions between Muslims. "Such a thing that people are inflicting on each other," he said.
Alladin placed part of the blame for the attacks on the Pakistani government, which he said had forced many Ahmadis to leave the country. He took out his wallet and pulled out an application form for a Pakistani passport. The form requires Muslims to sign a declaration that states, in part, that they disavow the Ahmadis' spiritual leader. "This is a man-made creation," he said.
With Maria Alvarez
and combined news services