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Leader of Red Mosque militants killed in massive operation
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08:09, July 11, 2007

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Abdul Rashid Ghazi, deputy chief of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, was killed in the massive operation on Tuesday, the Pakistani government confirmed.

Rebel cleric Rashid was killed by militants when he tried to surrender to Pakistani forces who stormed an Islamabad mosque, Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.

"He was accompanied by four to five companions and he wanted to surrender when he was shot dead in a hail of bullets by other militants," Cheema said.

Ghazi's death was confirmed by another interior ministry official.

Ghazi's body was in a basement and would be brought out after the compound is cleared, Interior Ministry official Syed Kamal Shah said, adding that the operation would still continue at the mosque.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Muhammad Ali Durrani said Tuesday that callous militants fired at hostages who tried to flee from the premises of Jamia Hafsa. The militants also locked hostages in a basement to prevent their escape, Durrani added.

Security forces found a secret tunnel between Lal Masjid and its affiliated building Jamia Hafsa. However, Cheema said that there was no chance for militants to escape.

Government officials confirmed that the security forces had cleared 80 percent of the Lal Masjid compound and confined the remaining militants to Jamia Hafsa.

Umm-e-Hasaan, wife of Lal Masjid's chief cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz and principal of Jamia Hafsa, together with his daughter Asma, had been arrested in the operation on Tuesday, government officials said.

Pakistani army confirmed that eight soldiers died and 29 others were injured in the intense fighting.

Up to 88 militants had been killed in the massive operation on Tuesday, the latest reports of a private Pakistani TV channel DAWN NEWS said.

At 4 a.m. local time Tuesday (2300 GMT, Monday), Pakistan Muslim League PML (Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat, who talked with Ghazi on behalf of the government, said that the talks failed and that he was disappointed. Thereafter the government launched the massive operation named "Operation Silence" against the Lal Masjid.

Source: Xinhua



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