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Gunfire, Explosions Rock Besieged Mosque in Islamabad

  • VOA News

Heavy gunfire and explosions have rocked a besieged radical mosque in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as government troops move closer to demolish the outer walls of the fortress-like compound.

The Red Mosque's (Lal Masjid) senior cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, said Thursday he and his followers are willing to surrender following three days of violence that claimed at least 19 lives.

The offer to surrender followed an appeal from Ghazi's older brother and the mosque's chief cleric, Abdul Aziz, who was captured Wednesday as he tried to flee dressed in a woman's burqa. Aziz said at least 850 students are inside the compound.

Authorities say dozens of "hardcore" militants are hiding among the students, who are demanding the imposition of strict Taleban-style Islamic law in Islamabad.

The authorities say security forces sealed the area and imposed a curfew.

They say hundreds of students have already accepted a government amnesty offer.
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