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Radical Mosque Leader Vows to Die Rather Than Surrender

  • VOA News

The top cleric at a besieged radical mosque in Islamabad says he would rather die than surrender.

Abdul Rashid Ghazi of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, said in a television interview on Friday that he and hundreds of followers inside the mosque will be, in his words, martyred, but will not surrender.

The mosque been at the center of a months-long standoff with security forces after its clerics vowed to impose strict Taleban-style Islamic law in Islamabad.

Troops have surrounded the compound since Tuesday. At least 19 people were killed Tuesday in fighting between security forces and militants.

In other news, security officials say shots were fired at the plane of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf after it took off from a military base in Rawalpindi.

The plane was not hit, and General Musharraf landed safely in his destination in southern Pakistan.

An Army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad says the government is investigating the shooting, but insists that the president's plane was not the intended target.

However, other Pakistani officials called the incident an unsuccessful attack on the president's plane.

Officials say the shots were from a machine gun. Police found two anti-aircraft guns and a machine gun on a nearby roof.

In other developments, a suicide bomb attack in northwestern Pakistan has killed at least four Pakistani soldiers in a military convoy.

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