View Full Version : Musharraf Tells Mosque Rebels To Surrender Or Die

07-07-2007, 05:02 PM
Musharraf tells mosque rebels to surrender or die


Published: Saturday July 7, 2007

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told Islamists besieged at an Islamabad mosque to surrender or be killed Saturday, amid claims that a bid to shoot down his plane was in revenge for the standoff.

Military ruler Musharraf said that the hardline students holed up inside the fortified Red Mosque complex for the past five days must immediately free women and children allegedly being held as human shields.

"They should surrender and hand over their weapons, otherwise they risk being killed," Musharraf told reporters in his first public comment on the confrontation.

"Our concern is for children and women and we are showing a lot of patience and restraint."

Pakistani forces have held back from raiding the now bullet-pocked mosque but there were intense clashes again during the day, while troops blew up the complex's petrol tank before dawn, sending flames high into the air.

The firebrand cleric leading the resistance, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, said Pakistani forces had killed 30 female and 40 male students in the siege. The women were buried at the site, he said.

The government says the toll is 19, including a soldier and several civilians.

The mullah said he and his followers had enough rations, arms and ammunition inside the compound to "fight for another 25 to 30 days and we will do that, God willing."

Ghazi, 43, also signalled his defiance by saying that he was telephoned by a man who claimed to have shot at Musharraf's aircraft on Friday in revenge for the siege.

"I received a telephone call yesterday from a man I did not know," who offered his "congratulations" before news of the attack on the president became public, Ghazi told AFP by telephone from the mosque.

"He said, 'I fired at Musharraf's plane just a while ago.' He said that Musharraf survived," said Ghazi, the deputy leader of the mosque.

Security officials said earlier they were probing possible links between the mosque operation and the failed bid to shoot down the president's plane as it took off from Chaklala military airbase at Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.

Police have said they found two anti-aircraft guns and a machine gun on the roof of a house near the airbase after the attack.

Musharraf, a key US ally who grabbed power in a 1999 coup, has survived at least three other militant attempts to kill him.

A group of Islamist MPs said troops stopped them from entering the mosque to negotiate with Ghazi, whose brother, mosque leader Abdul Aziz, was captured by police on Wednesday while trying to flee dressed in a woman's burqa.

"We have been prevented because the forces of Musharraf are hell-bent on spilling the blood of women and children," said hardline MP Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, the leader of the delegation.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz blamed the militants for the standoff and accused them of holding hostages. Ghazi denies the hostage charge.

"All children and women who are being held hostage should be freed forthwith," he told state television. "Their parents are waiting for them outside and desperately want these children to be released."

In a blow to the mosque's defiance, police in a pre-dawn swoop seized control of a separate radical madrassa affiliated to it, the Jamia Faridia religious school, without a shot being fired, officials said.

Police said the Jamia Faridia was the "powerhouse" for the Red Mosque and that several students were involved in the current violence.

Authorities had feared that male students from the school -- founded in the 1980s to train anti-Soviet fighters for Afghanistan -- would open another front against the government.

"Police stormed into Jamia Faridia and arrested dozens of students and shifted them to an unknown place," a senior security official told AFP.

Dozens of police on Saturday morning guarded the religious school, which is located in the upscale E-7 neighbourhood where several ministers live, about two miles (three kilometres) from the mosque in the G-6 area.

Students from the mosque and the madrassa had irked the government since January with a Taliban-style anti-vice campaign, which involved the abduction of several people they linked to prostitution, including seven Chinese.