Pakistani troops stormed the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) complex in Islamabad early Tuesday morning, reportedly trying to rescue several hundred women and children who were still inside.
Government officials have said the women and children were being held against their will, and used as human shields. The militant cleric leading the resistance, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, has said those in the mosque were free to leave if they wished.
Current reports from the Pakistani military indicate that 40 militants have been killed and another 50 have surrendered, but they say no other civilians have been found, wounded or otherwise.
One witness told a reporter there were "dead bodies everywhere" inside the mosque.
By noon the Army said it controlled 70% of the complex, but it had yet to find the women and children.
The leader of the militant resistance, Abdul Rashi Ghazi, is reportedly still alive, although his mother has died in the attack.
Eight hours after the assault began, security forces have rescued 60 people from the basement of the complex. The day's death toll now stands at around 50 militants and 8 soldiers.
Still no word on the other women and children. Still no word on the other militants.
This just in:
Hundreds of armed supporters of the militants in the besieged Red Mosque blocked the Himalayan Karakorum Highway linking to China in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province Tuesday, officials said.Lovely!
Around 20,000 tribesmen, many armed with rocket launchers and automatic weapons in the tribal Bajaur region bordering Afghanistan, protested against the siege of the mosque on Monday, burning effigies of President Musharraf.
Reports now say 58 are dead, 50 have surrendered, 60 have been rescued, and hundreds still missing. The resistance leader, Abdul Rashi Ghazi, has been killed. Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said he had been killed by militants when he tried to surrender. Later he "updated" his account and said that Ghazi had been caught in a crossfire.
Still no word on how many people are still inside the mosque, but according to one report,
Abdul Sattar Edhi, head of the private relief agency Edhi Foundation, told reporters that the army had asked him to prepare 400 white shrouds used for covering the dead.
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