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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 June 2007, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Pakistan students free hostages
Islamic students outside the Red Mosque, 16/04/2007
Students have been challenging the authority of President Musharraf
Students from a radical mosque in Islamabad have released nine hostages, including six Chinese women, whom they accused of prostitution.

A top cleric at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) said they were freed after the authorities gave assurances they would shut down mixed-sex massage parlours.

The students broke into an acupuncture clinic late on Friday in the Pakistan capital, which they said was a brothel.

It is the latest in a series of acts by hardliners from the mosque this year.

"After the administration assured us they would close down the massage parlours in Islamabad, and in view of the Pakistan-China friendship, we are releasing all nine men and women," said Abdul Rashid Ghazi, deputy head of the Red Mosque.

He said the massage of men by women was "not allowed according to the values of Islam".

The Interior Ministry said the abduction was a "shocking and unlawful act".

'Immoral activities'

The pro-Taleban students raided the Chinese acupuncture and health centre late on Friday. They were armed with batons and assaulted three armed guards.

In a statement they said the foreign women were involved in prostitution and that they were brought to the mosque to teach them not to indulge in "anti-social activities".

The abductions of the six women and three men were described as "a natural reaction by students against vulgarity and obscenity."

The mosque has been openly defying the government for months, resulting in a tense stand-off.

Officials have tried to appease the mosque and its students with talks and concessions, saying they do not want to use force against the women and in a holy place.

But critics have attacked the government for failing to enforce its authority in the capital.

The Pakistan massage parlour

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