Lahore, Pakistan - Gunmen stormed into a major hospital in Lahore early Tuesday, killing at least six people before fleeing, local officials said.
Lahore’s police chief, Shafique Gujjar, said that the motive for the raid on Jinnah Hospital was to free a militant who has been on a ventilator since he was wounded Friday, in the brazen attacks at two mosques in Lahore that killed more than 80 members of a minority Muslim sect called the Ahmadis. About 35 Ahmadis wounded Friday are also being treated at the hospital.
A different motive, though, was offered by local television commentators, who said the attackers had wanted to kill the militant to keep him from revealing any information to the authorities.
A witness, Mohammad Iqbal, 43, said “blood was everywhere” as four gunmen dressed in police uniforms tried unsuccessfully to enter the intensive care unit where the militant is being treated. The attackers were driven by police gunfire, said Mr. Iqbal, whose father is also a patient on the unit.
Mr. Gujjar, the police chief, said the attackers fired indiscriminately after storming into the back of the hospital near the emergency ward just after midnight.
The Punjab Province police force summoned large numbers of armored vans and elite forces as the firing continued. Three police officers and a woman were killed before the gunmen escaped into an open area dotted with trees behind the hospital.
Two people who were critically wounded later died, said the hospital’s executive director, Javed Akram, and six others were wounded, two of them critically.
“A search for the gunmen was under way,” said a senior police officer, Suhail Sukhera. “We will trace them by any costs. We are in a state of war.”
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for Friday’s mosque attacks. The Taliban, who are Sunni Muslim, have increasingly focused on attacking minority Muslim groups.
There are about two million Ahmadis in Pakistan, where the sect has suffered severe discrimination in Pakistan for decades. Ahmadis are considered heretical by many mainstream Muslims because they believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded their movement in 1889, was a messiah. A basic tenet of Islam is that Muhammad was the final prophet.