This content is not available in your region

Human shield fears grow over besieged Pakistan mosque

Human shield fears grow over besieged Pakistan mosque
Text size Aa Aa

The captured leader of a besieged Pakistani mosque has urged holed-up militants to surrender or flee. Authorities fear a hardcore element is keeping some children as human shields inside Islamabad’s Red Mosque. In an interview on state television, Abdul Aziz said around 800 students remain in the building, but only 14 men are armed with Kalashnikovs. He was caught yesterday trying to leave dressed in a woman’s burqa. He claims he told others to leave the mosque but some women teachers persuaded girls to stay behind.

Small groups of radical students have continued to trickle out of the complex as Pakistani forces tighten their control of the perimeter. They set off a series of eight explosions outside the mosque before dawn. No casualties have been reported but there was some damage to the mosque. At least 16 people have died in recent clashes which reportedly started when security forces tried to place barriers around the complex.