Bay Shore law student Salaam Bhattl, an Ahmadi Muslim, says recent Taliban attacks on two mosques in Pakistan have left his family devastated.
More than 90 worshipers were killed when militants armed with guns and grenades mounted simultaneous attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore during Friday prayers on May 28.
"I know people who were stuck in that mosque for more than two and a half hours," said Bhattl, 24, of the attack at the Bait-ul-Noor mosque in Pakistan's second largest city. The nearby Dar-ul-Zakir mosque was also attacked.
Bhattl said two relatives are recuperating, and a third, a cousin, awaits transplants after being shot in the liver and kidney. "My cousin just had a baby and it's a grim chance that in Pakistan he'll be able to get the transplants he needs," Bhattl told a Manhattan news conference called by local Ahmadi community leaders Thursday.
Despite the odds, Bhattl said his family's faith brought them hope - "and hope overrides everything, even in the darkest times," he said with a smile at the Double Tree Hotel in Times Square.
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.
Some of the about 2,300 Ahmadis in New York City and Long Island lost friends and loved ones in the attacks, according to the president of one Long Island mosque last week.
Local Ahmadi leaders want the U.S. government to force Pakistan to repeal the ban on their faith and offer better protection in the wake of the attacks.