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Last Updated: Friday, 13 July 2007, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Mosque protests across Pakistan
Protesters in Islamabad
The protesters accuse the government of heavy-handedness

Protests have taken place across Pakistan against the government's military operation against radicals in Islamabad's radical Red Mosque.

In the north-western city of Peshawar more than 1,000 protesters vowed to avenge the death of the mosque's deputy leader, Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

A 36-hour assault on the Islamabad mosque left 75 people inside the mosque and 10 soldiers dead, officials say.

For months clerics and students campaigned for Sharia law in the city.

Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the Peshawar's historic Mahabat Khan mosque, asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to emulate the path of Mr Ghazi, who was killed on Tuesday.

Correspondents say that scores of people did so, while chanting in support of Islam and against President Musharraf.


Many people offered prayers for those killed in the attack at another hardline mosque in Lahore.

The outcome of this episode will determine the future of war against terror
Muhammad Saeed, Islamabad

The ceremony was organised by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation - a social welfare organisation linked to the banned Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba - which has been listed by the US as a terrorist organisation.

"This was genocide, hundreds of innocent women and children died," cleric Mohammad Saeed, the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation, said.

"This is a challenge for all Muslims and Pakistanis," he told the weekly prayer congregation.

"It is state terrorism, it is extreme brutality and those who killed the innocent will have a horrible fate," he said.

In the capital, hundreds of demonstrators attended a rally organized by Pakistan's main alliance of radical parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.

"This carnage will prove to be the last nail in the coffin of Musharraf's dictatorial rule in Pakistan," the group's deputy leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hydri told the gathering.

"Now there will be Red Mosques everywhere in Pakistan."

Protests were also held in the southern port city of Karachi.

In another development on Friday, police say they seized three suspected suicide bombers and a car filled with explosives on the outskirts of the north-western town of Dera Ismail Khan.

The main English language Dawn newspaper has reported that the army has started deploying troops in the southern districts of North West Frontier Province in areas adjoining the troubled Waziristan region.

The paper said that the deployment comes amid reports that an operation to curb militancy and extremism was imminent.

On Thursday evening President Pervez Musharraf said he was determined that extremism and terrorism would be eradicated in Pakistan.

He was speaking in a televised address to the nation .

3 July: Clashes erupt at mosque, 16 killed, after long student campaign for Islamic Sharia law
4 July: About 700 students leave mosque, now besieged by security forces; mosque leader caught trying to flee wearing woman's burka
5 July: More than 1,000 students surrender to security forces
6 July: Women are allowed to leave the mosque; students' deputy leader says he would rather die than surrender
8 July: Ministers say wanted militants are holding women and children inside the mosque
9 July: Negotiators talk to mosque leader via loudspeaker without progress; three Chinese workers are killed in Peshawar over siege
10 July: Pakistani troops storm mosque after failure of talks; army says Ghazi killed
11 July: Pakistani army says all militants cleared from mosque

'Madrassa a fortress'

Gen Musharraf praised Pakistan's security forces for freeing the Red Mosque in Islamabad "from the hands of terrorists".

"Unfortunately we have been up against our own people... they had strayed from the right path and become susceptible to terrorism."

"What do we want as a nation want?" President Musharraf asked. "What kind of Islam do these people represent?"

"In the garb of Islamic teaching they have been training for terrorism... they prepared the madrassa as a fortress for war and housed other terrorists in there.

"I will not allow any madrassa to be used for extremism."

Gen Musharraf said those members of the military who died had given their blood for the country.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Pakistan says many Pakistanis supported the operation, saying the government had no choice but to confront the Islamic extremists.

But, she adds, the authorities fear a violent reaction from other radicals and the country is on high alert.

1 Special forces attack compound from three sides and breach mosque walls
2 Fierce fighting between military and militants on mosque roof
3 Military take control of mosque and clear building
4 Militants fire from mosque minarets as action switches to madrassa
5 Remaining militants holed up in its basement, with women and children

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