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Mosque Holdouts Would Rather Die Than Quit

From Frances AFP:

Pakistan mosque cleric says would rather die than surrender

by Masroor Gilani and Nasir Jaffry Fri Jul 6

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – A Pakistani cleric holed up in a besieged mosque in the capital declared Friday he would rather die than surrender, dramatically upping the stakes amid claims human shields are being held inside.

Abdul Rashid Ghazi, deputy leader of the pro-Taliban Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, made the defiant statement on the fourth day of a bloody standoff that has already claimed 19 lives.

We have decided that we can be martyred but we will not surrender. We are ready for our heads to be cut off but we will not bow to them,” he told the private Geo television station.

“This may be my last conversation with you.”

The government rejected a conditional surrender offer last night by Ghazi, whose brother Abdul Aziz was captured on Wednesday while trying to flee the mosque dressed in a burqa [and high heels]

There was no immediate official reaction.

Heavy gunfire and explosions rocked the mosque early on Friday and there was no call for pre-dawn prayers from the mosque’s loudspeakers, indicating the damage inflicted by security forces on the fortified complex.

Troops backed by armoured personnel carriers and helicopter gunships have been moving closer to the mosque and have blown up much of its surrounding walls.

A mosque official, on condition of anonymity, said that there were casualties in the early Friday gunbattles and the building had been hit by further mortar fire from security forces.

“There are casualties on our side, but I cannot tell how many,” he told AFP. Government confirmation was not immediately available.

Hundreds of Islamic students are still inside the mosque compound, along with up to 60 “hardcore” armed militants, officials have said…

The militants inside are believed to be armed with assault rifles, grenades and petrol bombs, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said late Thursday.

Ghazi and Aziz have both denied that anyone was being kept against their will…

The troubles began in January when its female students occupied a state-run children’s library. In April the clerics set up an Islamic court that issued a “fatwa” or religious decree against a paragliding female minister.

Funny how the AFP is able to talk to a Mosque official on the inside, when they are supposed to have been cut off the world.

Anyway, this is looking more and more like an attempt by the Taliban to force Musharraf’s hand — to provide yet another excuse for an “uprising” against him.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, July 6th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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