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Pak army smokes out Lal Masjid rebels

July 10, 2007

In a decisive action to flush out militants holed up inside the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, security forces stormed into the mosque complex at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, killing at least 50 radicals and injuring many others.

Three security personnel were also killed and 15 injured in Operation Silence launched by the Pakistan army to clear the mosque of the radicals after talks between the government negotiator and firebrand leader cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi to end the week-long standoff failed.

Director General Inter Public Service Relations Major General Waheed Arshad told media persons after the operation was launched around 0400 hours that the security personnel had entered the mosque complex from three sides.

The militants were firing from the basements, he said, adding that besides machine guns they were using grenades, rocket launchers and petrol bombs to offer stiff resistance.

Assuming that the operation might last another three to four hours, Maj Gen Arshad said 25 students have managed to escape the compound since the start of the operation and were rescued by the Rangers.

He said it was likely that some portions of the mosque were damaged in the firing as the militants were using the minarets as trenches.

Image: Smoke billows out of the radical Lal Masjid complex after Pakistani troops launched a massive operation early Tuesday morning.
Reportage: UNIĀ | Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

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