After the Lal Masjid, site of a recent bloody standoff between Musharraf’s forces and jihadists, was reopened, it was immediately reoccupied by the jihadists. And now the violence has begun again. From AP (thanks to Davida):
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan “” Hundreds of students clashed with security forces and a nearby bombing killed 11 people Friday during the reopening of Islamabad’s Red Mosque for the first time since a bloody army raid to oust Islamic militants from the complex.
The bomb struck the Muzaffar Hotel, in a downtown market area about a quarter mile from the mosque. Local television showed victims “” many of them bleeding or badly burned, with their clothing in tatters “” being carried from the wreckage to waiting ambulances….
Senior Interior Ministry official Javed Iqbal Cheema said 11 people were killed, including seven police, and 43 were wounded.
The bombing came soon after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who had occupied the Red Mosque complex during its reopening after the raid that left more than 100 dead.
The protesters denounced President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and demanded the return of a pro-Taliban cleric, Abdul Aziz, who was detained by the government during the mosque siege.
The demonstrators threw stones at an armored personnel carrier and dozens of police in riot gear on a road outside the mosque. After the demonstrators disregarded calls to disperse peacefully, police fired tear gas, scattering the crowd.
Earlier, security forces stood by as protesters clambered onto the roof of the mosque and daubed red paint on the walls after they forced a government-appointed cleric assigned to lead prayers to retreat. A cleric from a seminary associated with the mosque eventually led the prayers.
“Musharraf is a dog! He is worse than a dog! He should resign!” students shouted. Some lingered over the ruins of a neighboring girls’ seminary that was demolished by authorities this week. Militants had used the seminary to resist government forces involved in the siege.
Friday’s reopening was meant to help cool anger over the siege, which triggered a flare-up in militant attacks on security forces across Pakistan. Public skepticism still runs high over the government’s accounting of how many people died in the siege, with many still claiming a large number of children and religious students were among the dead. The government says the overwhelming majority were militants.
The mosque’s clerics had used thousands of its students in an aggressive campaign to impose Taliban-style Islamic law in the capital. The campaign, which included kidnapping alleged Chinese prostitutes and threatening suicide attacks to defend the fortified mosque, raised concern about the spread of Islamic extremism in Pakistan.
Militants holed up in the mosque compound for a week before government troops launched their assault on July 10, leaving it pocked with bullet holes and damaged by explosions. At least 102 people were killed in the violence.
In an act of defiance to authorities’ repainting of the mosque this week in pale yellow, protesters wrote “Lal Masjid” or “Red Mosque” in large Urdu script on the dome of the mosque. They also hoisted a black flag with two crossed swords “” meant to symbolize jihad, or holy war….
Over mosque loudspeakers, protesters vowed to “take revenge for the blood of martyrs.”
In a speech at the mosque’s main entrance, Liaqat Baloch, deputy leader of a coalition of hard-line religious parties, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, condemned Musharraf as a “killer” and declared there would be an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.
“Maulana Abdul Aziz is still the prayer leader of the mosque. The blood of martyrs will bear fruit. This struggle will reach its destination of an Islamic revolution. Musharraf is a killer of the constitution. He’s a killer of male and female students. The entire world will see him hang,” Baloch said.
Pakistan’s Geo television showed scenes of pandemonium inside the mosque, with dozens of young men in traditional Islamic clothing and prayers caps shouting angrily and punching the air with their hands.
Officials were pushed and shoved by men in the crowd. One man picked up shoes left outside the mosque door and hurled them at news crews recording the scene….
Security was tightened in Islamabad ahead of the mosque’s reopening, with extra police taking up posts around the city and airport-style metal detectors put in place at the mosque entrance used to screen worshippers for weapons.
Religious Equivalence Alert: How many churches have metal detectors at their entrances to screen worshippers for weapons?