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20 militants killed in operation in Pakistani capital
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10:37, July 10, 2007

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At least 20 militants were killed Tuesday during the military's major operation on a radical mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the military said.

Three soldiers of the elite special forces were killed and nine others wounded in the "Operation Silence" following failure of talks for militants in the Lal Masjid mosque to surrender, according to the military.

The security forces are patrolling and reporters have been expelled from the mosque area, TV screen pictures showed.

More and more casualties are taken to hospitals in the capital and the death toll is expected to rise, according to TV channel reports.

Several ambulances are waiting at the mosque area and three hospitals are on standby.

The militants in the mosque are holed up in a basement. Cunship helicopters on Tuesday morning arrived at the mosque to back group troops and the operation may last three to four hours, a private TV channel reported.

The casualties in the mosque are not known yet, but Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, the defiant cleric in the Lal Masjid mosque, claimed that his mother died in the operation.

Many children escaped from the mosque early Tuesday morning and they were with the troops, according to TV channel reports.

The government announced that there will be no curfew break in the area from 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) to 12 at noon (0900 GMT).

Special forces were leading the operation and the militants inside the Lal Masjid mosque used small arms, grenades and petrol bombs in rebellion, according to local TV reports.

At 4 a.m. local time Tuesday (0100 GMT), Pakistan Muslim League (Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat, who talked with Ghazi on behalf of the government, said that the talks failed and he was disappointed.

Shujaat told the press that Ghazi wanted delay on talks, adding "we tried our best but Ghazi put more conditions."

Source: Xinhua

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