Around 150 people have left a besieged mosque in the Pakistani capital. But many more militant students remain inside, despite the passing of a deadline the government had set for surrender. Dozens of soldiers are surrounding the Red Mosque in Islamabad, where at least 16 people have reportedly been killed and up to 140 others injured in clashes. It follows a long-running stand-off between the authorities and a Taliban-style movement based at the building.
The government had warned that anyone who tried to fight would be shot. Clerics acting as intermediaries held talks with leaders of the hardline student movement and the government overnight, but there has been little sign of a breakthrough. The violence erupted when women students from one of the mosque’s religious schools tried to remove a wire fence put in place by the army.
The government had resisted taking action against the radical mosque for fear of provoking a violent backlash. But an attack on nearby government buildings prompted them to announce that an operation led by paramilitary forces would be launched.