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Pakistani President Vows to Crush Extremism

  • VOA News

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to root out extremists throughout the country and pledged not to allow religious schools (madrassas) to be used to spread militancy.

In a nationwide television address Thursday, General Musharraf also said that security forces along the border with Afghanistan will soon be equipped with modern weaponry, including tanks, to fight extremism and terrorism.

The Pakistani leader defended the government's raid on the radical Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad, Tuesday following a week-long siege. He said he chose a military option only after negotiations with clerics failed.

The government says at least 105 people died during the eight-day siege, including militants, students and 10 Pakistani soldiers.

In Washington, US lawmakers said General Musharraf must act to eliminate the Taleban, al-Qaida and other extremists in the country.

Earlier Thursday, authorities buried dozens of Islamic militants who died during the siege, while a slain top cleric of the mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, was buried by relatives in his ancestral village in Punjab.

Pakistan's army gave the media a tour of the battle-scarred mosque compound. Journalists were shown an arsenal of weapons and a blackened room where the army says a suicide bomber died with other people.

Clerics and students at the Red Mosque had challenged government authority for months with a violent campaign to impose strict Islamic law in Pakistan.

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