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Militant Cleric, 60 Others Killed at Besieged Mosque in Pakistan


A militant cleric behind an uprising at a radical mosque in Pakistan was killed Tuesday as troops and his followers fought gunbattles that authorities say left about 60 militants dead.

Pakistani officials say cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi was shot dead as soldiers battled militant forces for more than 13 hours at the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

At least eight soldiers were killed in the fighting.

A Pakistani military spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad said the operation is continuing, and that the military now controls most of the mosque compound.

Authorities estimate the military has detained about 70 militants and rescued more than 80 people from the complex, including women and children.

Pakistani troops raided the compound early Tuesday after talks failed to end a week-long standoff with militants holed up in the mosque.

The United States has praised Pakistan's "responsible" decision to raid the compound. A State Department spokesman, Tom Casey says Pakistani authorities had made a number of attempts to peacefully resolve the standoff.

U.S. President George W. Bush called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a strong ally in the war against extremists.

Earlier in the siege, Abdul Rashid Ghazi said everyone with him in the mosque would rather die fighting than surrender to government forces. He said he hoped his death would provoke an Islamic revolution in Pakistan. His followers want to install strict Taleban-style Islamic law in the country.

The government says some militants in the mosque are linked to al-Qaida.

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