LAHORE, Pakistan – Militants who attacked a minority sect, killing 93 people in the country’s east, belonged to the Pakistani Taliban and were trained in a border region where the United States wants Islamabad to mount an army operation, police said Saturday.

The revelation could help the United States persuade Pakistan that rooting out the various extremist groups in North Waziristan is in Islamabad’s own interest. Up to now, Pakistan has resisted, in part because it says its army is stretched thin in operations elsewhere.

Suspicion that the man accused of a failed bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square earlier this month may have received aid from the Pakistani Taliban has added to U.S. urgency about clearing North Waziristan.

Local TV channels have reported the Pakistani Taliban, or an affiliate, had claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks in Pakistan’s second-largest city.

Senior police officer Akram Naeem in Lahore said the interrogation of one of the arrested suspects revealed that the gunmen were involved with the Pakistani Taliban. The 17-year-old suspect told police the attackers had trained in the North Waziristan tribal region.

“Our initial investigation has found that they all belong to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” or Pakistani Taliban movement, Naeem said.

He said the suspect, “Abdullah alias Mohammad, was given terrorism training in Miran Shah” — the main city in North Waziristan.

North Waziristan has long been filled with militants focused on battling U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban began arriving after army operations against them in other regions.

Before the Pakistani Taliban began operating in North Waziristan, Islamabad was believed to want to avoid taking on the area because the militant networks there were not threatening targets inside the country.

Critics also suspect Pakistan wants to maintain good relations with some of those Afghan-focused militant networks so that it will have allies in Afghanistan once the United States leaves the region.

Friday’s attacks targeted the Ahmadi sect, a minority reviled by mainstream Muslims. Two teams of gunmen, including some in suicide vests, stormed two mosques and sprayed bullets at worshippers while holding off police. At least two of the seven attackers were captured, while some died in the standoff or by detonating their explosives.

Militants have used such tactics in attacking Pakistan’s U.S.-allied government and foreign and security targets often in the past, but violence against religious minorities had previously not been waged in such a large-scale, sophisticated fashion.

Ahmadi leaders on Saturday demanded better government protection as they buried many of the victims. Waseem Sayed, a U.S.-based Ahmadi spokesman, said it was the worst attack in the sect’s 121-year history.

The request could test the government’s willingness to take on hard-line Islamists whose influence is behind decades of state-sanctioned discrimination against the Ahmadis in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.

“Are we not the citizens of Pakistan?” local Ahmadi leader Raja Ghalib Ahmad asked at the site of one of the attacks in the Garhi Shahu section of Lahore. “We do have the right to be protected, but unfortunately we were not given this protection.”

Mainstream Muslims consider the Ahmadis heretics for their belief that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a savior foretold by the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Many Muslims say Ahmadis are defying the basic tenet of Islam that says Muhammad is the final prophet, but Ahmadis argue that their leader was the savior rather than a prophet.


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