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Surrender or die, Musharraf tells Lal Masjid militants
K J M Varma in Islamabad | July 07, 2007 17:41 IST
Last Updated: July 07, 2007 20:40 IST
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Saturday warned Islamic extremists holed up in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad that they will be killed if they do not surrender even as security forces captured a boys' madrassa affiliated to the radical mosque and took into custody scores of students.
"They have defamed Islam, they have defamed Pakistan, they have embarrassed Pakistan internationally," the General said breaking his silence on the five-day-old bloody confrontation involving the radical students, clerics and militants inside the besieged mosque which has left at least 21 people dead.
About 1,300 and 1,400 have surrendered but 'those who remain inside, my appeal to them is they should come out and surrender. Otherwise, I am saying right here, that you will all die,' Musharraf told media persons during his visit to Balochistan to oversee flood relief work.
Intermittent gunfire followed deafening explosion continued to rock the city since last night during which security forces captured Jamia Faridia, the madrassa housing hundreds of boys administered by the Lal Masjid.
Scores of students were taken into custody from the madrassa, which was located in a posh area about four km from Lal Masjid and where top diplomats and as well as the disgraced nuclear scientist A Q Khan resided.
Jamia Faridia madrassa had over 3,000 students on its rolls. Most of the boys, however, are believed to have been holed up in the Lal Masjid along with other militants.
The level of resistance offered by the militants holed up in the mosque has led the security analysts to suspect whether they were protecting any high-value targets inside the complex.
Such a suspicion has been strengthened by the fact that many inside the complex spoke languages other than Urdu and Pushtu and they have been directing the security in the complex.
On Friday, interior secretary Sayed Kamal Shah did not rule out the presence of foreign mercenaries.
"No compromise would be made on peace and writ of the law will be ensured all over the country at all costs," Musharraf said.
The warning came as authorities investigated a possible assassination attempt against Musharraf after shots were reportedly fired at his plane as it took off, in an apparent retaliation to the action against the mosque.
Deputy administrator of the mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi today told agencies by telephone that he had received a call from an unidentified man who said he tried to shoot Musharraf's plane in revenge for the government crackdown.
He claimed his supporters had enough ammunition and supplies to hold out for another month.
Some of the six MMA partners like Jamaat-i-Islami had close ties with Lal Masjid even as other parties opposed the militant tactics followed by Ghazi and elder brother Abdul Aziz who was caught three days ago while trying to escape from the mosque complex wearing a burqa.
The request showed that the supplies were running out, Aziz said. But 'they (security forces) do not want to us to go there. It is evident,' MMA lawmaker Aziz said.
But, Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said no permission was given to the MMA MPs to go inside the mosque.
Officials later said that MMA MPs were not permitted as the security forces feared that the food supplies they carried would enable the militants to prolong their resistance.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Abdul Rashid Ghazi had said they were willing to give up their claim of Lal Masjid and the madrassas associated with it if they are given a safe passage to go to his village in Balochistan.
Ghazi said that over 70 to 80 militants were killed during the past five days.
Meanwhile, PTV showed footage of damage to the Masjid alleging that the militants knocked down the walls and windows to fire at the security forces. The outer wall of the Masjid was riddled with bullet holes.
Officials believe that over 1000 people including large number of women and children were still in the complex.