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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Police freed from Pakistan mosque
Pakistani policemen after their release
The policemen said they had been treated well in captivity
Hardline Islamist clerics at a mosque in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, have freed two police officers they had held hostage for almost a week.

The policemen were part of a group of four officers kidnapped at Islamabad's Red Mosque last Friday in retaliation for the arrest of 11 seminary students.

Two officers were freed a day later amid a tense stand-off with police.

Clerics at the mosque are campaigning for Islamic Sharia law to be introduced in the capital.

They have also organised vigilante anti-vice squads and issued religious edicts against officials, including a female government minister.

Challenges to authority

The two policemen left the mosque wearing plain clothes.

They were accompanied by Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of the mosque's prayer leaders.

Seminary students man a roadblock
Seminary students have been controlling access to the mosque

"We have released the two policemen on Islamic and humanitarian grounds because their relatives came to us with requests to free them," Mr Ghazi said.

He denied the two officers had been freed because of fears of an imminent police raid.

Mr Ghazi told the BBC the mosque's issues with the government were still unresolved.

The mosque complex, which contains an Islamic seminary, has been surrounded by security forces for several weeks.

The kidnappings were the latest in a series of bold challenges from the mosque to the authority of Pakistani leader, Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Officials have tried to appease the mosque authorities with talks and concessions, saying they do not want to use force in a holy place, which also contains some female students.

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

'Rural folk'

Speaking hours before their release, Assistant Sub-Inspector Aurangzeb and Constable Raja Jahangir, told the BBC that they had been treated well in captivity.

"They have taken good care of us. Whatever we have asked for has been provided," Mr Aurangzeb said.

However, both men said that they missed their families "terribly" and wanted to get out as soon as possible.

"My family thinks I am away on duty... I haven't told them about my situation," Constable Jahangir said.

"We are poor rural folk and my wife would go into shock if she heard about it."


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