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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Fresh fighting at Pakistan mosque
Pakistani troops arrive at the Red Mosque
Pakistani troops have restricted access to the mosque buildings
Troops in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, have carried out an attack on the Red Mosque where radical Islamist students are under siege.

Two huge explosions were heard overnight from the compound as armoured vehicles moved in.

As a group of students tried to leave the mosque two were killed in an exchange of gunfire.

Several hundred people, including children, have been holding out against the authorities since Tuesday.

The BBC's Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says a group of students tried to break out of the complex, sparking a co-ordinated assault on three sides by armoured personnel carriers and rangers.

Location map

Two students were killed and at least 10 wounded, four of them seriously.

The two explosions overnight were the biggest so far in the siege and were heard as far as 8km (5 miles) away.

But our correspondent says this has not been a full-scale attack.

Meanwhile Pakistani police have taken control of an Islamic seminary run by clerics from the Red Mosque.

"Police stormed into Jamia Faridia and arrested dozens of students and shifted them to an unknown place", a senior security officer told AFP news agency.

Police said the Jamia Faridia was a "powerhouse" for the Red Mosque and several of its students were involved in the standoff.

The mosque's deputy leader, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, said he would rather die than surrender.

"We are ready for our heads to be cut off but we will not bow to them," he said.

'Plane targeted'

Separately, Pakistan's media reported that Gen Musharraf's plane came under fire as it took off from a military base close to the capital.

Officials denied the reports, but police said they had found two anti-aircraft guns on a rooftop near the air base, in Rawalpindi. It was not clear if the guns had been fired.

Gen Musharraf, who has survived previous assassination attempts, was said to be unharmed.

Armoured Personnel Carriers outside the Red Mosque
Pakistani troops have restricted access to the mosque buildings
It is believed several hundred religious students are still inside the complex, after more than 1,000 left under mounting pressure from security forces.

Officials said about 60 of those remaining are hard-liners, who have been at the vanguard of campaigning for the imposition of strict Islamic law (Sharia) in Islamabad.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the government is piling psychological pressure on those still inside with a mass demonstration of force demanding unconditional surrender.

Speaking in a telephone interview broadcast on Pakistani television, Mr Ghazi said he had told government mediator Chaudry Shujaat Hussain that his followers were ready to surrender.

But Mr Ghazi said he had insisted the authorities promise not to detain anyone who they could not prove belonged to any banned militant groups, or were not wanted for any crime.

The cleric also demanded a guarantee of safety for himself and his family, saying he wanted to remain on the premises with his sick mother until they were able to move elsewhere.

Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan said Mr Ghazi and the remaining students would have to lay down their arms unconditionally like all those who left the mosque since the violence began on Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr Khan accused the Red Mosque Islamists of using women and children as human shields.

Smoke rises above Islamabad's Red Mosque

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