UPDATE AT THE END.
Bloomberg – 42 minutes ago
By Khaleeq Ahmed and Khalid Qayum July 4 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan extended a deadline at Islamabad’s Red Mosque after at least 16 people were killed in gun battles between police and students supporting the chief cleric’s call for Islamic law to be imposed in the city. About 650 students at the mosque surrendered, the government said.
Police charged chief cleric Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz and his deputy Abdul Rashid Ghazi with murder and terrorism, police spokesman Muhammad Amaar said by telephone. Other charges include damaging state property and interfering in state matters.
The government earlier set a deadline of 11 a.m. Islamabad time for the students to give themselves up and has extended it without setting a specific time, Tariq Azeem, the deputy information minister, said.
Ghazi told Aaj TV earlier the students won’t surrender, potentially deepening a standoff with the government that started after the chief cleric set up an Islamic court on the premises on April 6.
There may be more people dead inside the mosque following the two days of clashes between students and police, Information Secretary Anwar Mahmood said at a news conference in Islamabad.
The government has extended the deadline because “the response has been more than our expectation,” Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said at the news conference. “Our strategy is that we vacate the mosque with minimum losses.”
“There is still time to surrender,” Azeem told a news conference in the Pakistani capital earlier today. “We are showing maximum restraint because we believe the issue can be resolved peacefully.”
The government is offering to pay 5,000 rupees ($82.82) to each student who surrenders, Azeem said. Action will be taken against those students who took up arms against the security forces yesterday, Azeem said.
Between 2,000 and 2,500 people were inside the mosque before the latest surrender, according to Azeem. Ten people, including four security officials, were killed in the clashes overnight and 94 were injured, he said.
Pakistani army seals off radical mosque after day of violence Guardian Unlimited
The talks appear to be heading nowhere,” Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of two radical brothers who lead the mosque, told Reuters news agency by phone.
The dramatic siege is the culmination of months of simmering tension between authorities and the radical students, whose anti-vice campaign – including kidnapping alleged prostitutes and burning films – has embarrassed the president, General Pervez Musharraf.
The final straw may have been the abduction of seven Chinese employees of a massage parlour, which the militants termed a brothel, last week. The Chinese were released within hours but their government – a key ally of Pakistan – demanded greater security.
The showdown started yesterday after a clash at a security checkpost outside the mosque triggered a five-hour gun battle in the surrounding streets.
Women in black burqas and bearded young men streamed out of the compound and passed through metal detectors after the government set and then twice extended a deadline for them to give themselves up.
Around 700 have come out, more are coming. They were provided with transport facilities to go to their homes,’ senior Islamabad administration official Chaudhry Mohammad Ali said.
Musharraf earlier said each of them would receive 5,000 rupees (83 usd).
Security officials said an estimated 1,000 students were left in the building, about half of them female students, and added that it was possible the siege could go into a second night.
Islamic religious students chant slogans in Mansehra July 3, 2007 in protest against clashes at the Red mosque in Islamabad.
Female religious students fleeing from the shooting. For months the students have been defying the authorities in the nation’s capital. (BBC)
Lawyers in Pakistan are investigating a report that up to 30 men tortured and gang-raped a young Christian man for refusing to convert to Islam. The victim is seriously injured and unable to move, Release International’s partner in Pakistan has reported. However, according to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) the police are keeping him locked up and have denied him medical treatment. The police are also refusing to register the rape following a counter-claim made by his principal attacker – “a man of influence”, Release International has told Christian Today.
More about this case in English Rose.
Security forces besieging a radical mosque in the Pakistani capital captured its top cleric Wednesday as he tried to sneak out of the complex in a woman’s burqa, and more than 1,000 of his followers surrendered.
The peaceful arrest of the mosque’s prayer leader, Maulana Abdul Aziz, was a coup for the government. The firebrand Aziz has been a vociferous opponent of Musharraf and has threatened suicide attacks to defend the mosque. His thousands of male students have been at the forefront of anti-government and anti-U.S. rallies in Islamabad.
[…] A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said authorities captured the mosque’s top cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, after a female police officer tried to search his body, which was concealed by a full-length black burqa.
The officer began shouting “This is not a woman,” the official said, prompting male officers to seize him. “The suspect later turned out to be the mosque’s chief cleric,” the official said.
Must have been a scene… which could appear in any good comedy…