More than 24 hours after it began, an operation to flush out militants from a radical mosque in Islamabad is almost over, according to the Pakistani Army. No one knows yet exactly what happened inside the Red Mosque and its religious schools – even the reported numbers of those killed are vague.
Major General Waheed Arshad told reporters around 50 militants died along with eight soldiers: “The operation is still in progress. As you are aware, in the afternoon, I had mentioned that clearance of the southern portion of the madrassa was in progress and during that clearance, in one of the basements, Abdul Rashid Ghazi and some of his men got killed.”
Ghazi, a pro-Taliban militant cleric, had denied the presence of banned extremist groups. He had said those inside the complex were his own students. The fear is now that other radical islamists, who may consider Ghazi a martyr, could spark a violent backlash.
Already, in other areas of Pakistan, armed tribesmen and religious students have gathered to chant for the death of President Pervez Musharraf. In the eastern city of Multan, more than 500 islamic students blocked a main road with burning tyres and chanted anti-government slogans.