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Cleric Hopes Death Will Provoke 'Islamic Revolution' in Pakistan

  • VOA News

Pakistani Cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi says he and his followers would rather die at their Islamabad mosque than surrender to the government troops surrounding them.

In a statement released Sunday, Ghazi said that he hoped his death would provoke an Islamic revolution throughout Pakistan.

Thousands of troops continue to surround the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in the sixth day of the standoff between radical Islamists and government forces.

Earlier on Sunday a Pakistani army commander,Colonel Haroon Islam was killed in an exchange of gunfire with militants.

Government troops have blasted holes in the perimeter walls of the mosque, hoping that young women who attend a school within the compound would leave. Government officials say hundreds of people, including women and children, are in the compound.

On Saturday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said the militants will be killed if they do not surrender.

Ghazi told Pakistani television that more than 300 people inside the mosque died in Sunday's fighting but government officials say the number is closer to 21.

Ghazi and his supporters, who want to impose Taleban-style religious law in the capital, have repeatedly challenged the government's authority in recent months.

Students from the mosque's religious school led a series of raids into Islamabad, at one point kidnapping several policemen and alleged prostitutes.

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