July 10, 2007

Riding the Tiger


From FOX News: Radical Cleric of Besieged Pakistani Mosque Killed in Raid.

A radical cleric whose mosque sought to impose strict Islamic morality on the Pakistani capital was killed Tuesday as troops seized control of the sprawling compound, a government spokesman said.

Commandos stormed the Red Mosque before dawn, and the army said about 50 militants and eight soldiers were killed in Tuesday's fighting.

The cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who vowed to die rather than surrender, was killed during the attack, said Javed Iqbal Cheema, spokesman for the Interior Ministry. ...

Two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press Ghazi's body was found in the basement.

Twelve hours later, the army said the complex was 80 percent cleared of militants but it was still trying to root out well-armed defenders the government accuses of holding a number of hostages. ...

The siege was prompted by clashes earlier this month between security forces and supporters of the mosque's hard-line clerics. The religious extremists had been trying to impose Taliban-style morality in the capital through a six-month campaign of kidnappings and threats. More than 80 people have been killed since July 3.

The vigilante anti-vice campaign has proved an embarrassment to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in its war on terror, and underlined his administration's failure to control extremist religious schools.

As the siege was under way, at least two protests against the army attack were staged elsewhere in the country.

More than 100 armed tribesmen and religious students near the northwestern town of Batagram temporarily blocked a road that leads to neighboring China with boulders, police officials said.

The protestors fired their rifles into the air and shouted slogans against the government and Musharraf, he said.

More than 500 Islamic religious school students rallied in the eastern city of Multan, chanting "Down with Musharraf" and blocking a main road by burning tires.

On Monday, some 20,000 tribesmen, including hundreds of masked militants wielding assault rifles, held a similar protest in the northwest frontier region of Bajur.

From BBC News: Profile: Islamabad's Red Mosque.

The controversial Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) that is the focus of a bloody confrontation between Pakistani security forces and radical clerics and students is located near the centre of the capital, Islamabad.

A religious school for women, the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, is attached to the mosque. A male madrassa is a few minutes drive away.

Throughout most of its existence, the mosque has long been favoured by the city elite, including prime ministers, army chiefs and presidents.

UPDATE I -- July 11: From AP: At least 106 dead at Pakistan mosque. (via Little Green Footballs)

Commandos cleared the warren-like Red Mosque complex of rebel fighters Wednesday, ending a fierce eight-day siege and street battles that left more than 100 dead. The government warned it would not tolerate militancy in any of Pakistan's thousands of religious schools.

Officials found no corpses of women and children, although seven or eight of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition, apparently by the militants' gasoline bombs, said Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, a military spokesman.

UPDATE II -- July 19: From FOX News: Attacks Kill 33 as Wave of Violence Sweeps Further Across Pakistan.

A bomb hit a convoy of Chinese workers in southern Pakistan and a homicide attacker drove into a police academy in the north, killing up to 33 people as violence swept further across the country. ...

Homicide attacks, bombings and shootings blamed on Islamic extremists and a bloody army siege of radicals in Islamabad's Red Mosque have killed more than 240 people in Pakistan so far this month, stirring doubts about the country's stability.

Much of the violence has been in North West Frontier Province, especially the frontier region of North Waziristan, where pro-Taliban militants last weekend declared the end of a ten-month-old peace deal.

Posted by Forkum at July 10, 2007 03:31 PM