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Another Lal Masjid in Pakistan's northwest

July 30, 2007 15:54 IST

Hundreds of militants in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province have forcibly occupied a local mosque and named it after Islamabad's Lal Masjid while vowing to continue the mission of slain radical cleric Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

The militants have also decided to establish a seminary similar to Jamia Hafsa, the girls madrassa attached to Lal Masjid which was razed to the ground by the government after its capture early this month.

The 150 armed masked men took up positions in and around the Jamia Masjid Ghaziabad Lakaro on Saturday night.

The gunmen announced they were renaming the mosque as "Lal Masjid" and the madrassa would be called "Jamia Hafsa Umme Hassan" The Dawn quoted witnesses as saying.

Residents said the gunmen after occupying the mosque and the shrine of Haji Sahib Turangzai, a known reformist and freedom fighter, declared they would continue their "jihad" against the US and its allies. They urged locals to support them.

One of the gunmen, introducing himself as Khalid, said they would continue the mission of deputy administrator of Islamabad's Lal Masjid, Maulana Ghazi.

"The killing of Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rashid would give birth to hundreds others like him. We are establishing a madrassa, Jamia Hafsa Umme Hassan here," he said.

Ghazi was killed during the Pakistani army raid on Islamabad's Lal Masjid.

The armed men wrote "Lal Masjid" on the walls of the mosque and changed a signboard in front of the tehsil office building to "Lal Masjid Ghaziabad".

The tehsildar of Lakaro tehsil confirmed that the mosque had been occupied, it said.

Pakistani security forces are, meanwhile, building ten bunkers around the renovated Lal Masjid here to deploy heavily armed security personnel.

The Masjid has been indefinitely closed after militants students tried to recapture it and paint it red when it was opened for the first time during Friday prayers last week.

The government also appointed a moderate cleric but he was not allowed to function.

The mosque has again been painted back to peach colour by civic authorities after removing traces of red from its outer walls and the dome.

Cases have been registered against 65 students who have been arrested while trying to take over the mosque. They were all remanded to two-day police remand.

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