Pakistan Launches Operation Against Radicals in Mosque

July 6, 2007

Author: Griff Witte

Source: Washington Post Foreign Service

Pakistani security forces launched a major operation Thursday against radical students holed up in an Islamabad mosque, seeking to end a months-long standoff that has turned bloody in recent days.

Fighting raged in the darkness and continued early Friday, with the pops and cracks of small-arms fire echoing through the silence of a residential neighborhood. Just after 3 a.m., there was a major explosion, followed by an intense round of shooting that lasted nearly half an hour.

The government had earlier been hoping to pressure the students to leave the mosque peacefully, but those negotiations appeared to have broken down.

It was not immediately clear how many people had been killed in the clash, but leaders of the pro-Taliban Red Mosque have said they are prepared to fight to the death. The government, meanwhile, vowed Thursday to settle for nothing less than surrender.