“The battle marked a major escalation in a standoff at the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque.”
“Shooting at mosque in Pakistani capital,” by Sadaqat Jan for AP:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Security forces clashed with militants outside a radical
mosque in the Pakistani capital, triggering fighting that left one soldier dead, several students and troops injured, and two government buildings on fire.
The battle marked a major escalation in a standoff at the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, whose clerics have challenged the military-led government by mounting a vigilante
anti-vice campaign in Islamabad.
Trouble began when student followers of the mosque, including young men with guns and dozens of women wearing black burqas, rushed toward a nearby police checkpoint early Tuesday afternoon.
Police and paramilitary Rangers fired tear gas and, as the students retreated,
an Associated Press photographer saw at least four students, some of them masked, fire shots toward security forces about 200 yards away.
Gunfire was also heard from the police position.
A man used the mosque’s loudspeakers to order suicide bombers to get into
“They have attacked our mosque, the time for sacrifice has come,” the man
An hour later, dozens of students were patrolling the area around the mosque, and sporadic shots were still heard. There was no sign of security forces, who have massed in the area in recent weeks, moving in on the mosque.
The students later set fire to the Ministry of Environment after tearing down a section of the wall around the three-story building near the mosque and pelting it with rocks.
Also torched was the adjacent building belonging to the Capital Development
Authority, which oversees Islamabad’s administration.
Some of the students carried gas masks and several were seen with gasoline-
filled bottles and Molotov cocktails. About a dozen were armed with guns, including AK-47
Dozens of stone-throwing students shattered windows of the ministry building,
chanting, “Taliban, long live Taliban.” They later set the building afire.
Fast-spreading flames and black smoke poured out of windows and doors on the
Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the mosque’s deputy leader, said the authorities sparked
the trouble by erecting barricades near the mosque.
“The government is to be blamed for it,” he said.
When asked about the presence of armed students at his mosque, Ghazi said they “are our guards.”
One paramilitary soldier hit in the clash died later at a hospital, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said.