Lal Masjid siege: Wikis

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Siege of Lal Masjid
LalMasjidExplosion.jpg
An explosion at Lal Masjid set off by the Pakistan Army
Date July 3, 2007 – July 11, 2007
Location Lal Masjid, Islamabad, Pakistan
Result Army secures the complex.[1][2]
Belligerents
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Pakistan Army Lal Masjid students and militants
Commanders
Haroon-ul-Islam  Abdul Rashid Ghazi 
Abdul Aziz Ghazi #
Strength
12,000 Army and Rangers
164 SSG commandos[3][4]
1,300 students
100+ militants[5]
Casualties and losses
10 SSG killed[6]
1 Ranger killed[6]
33 SSG wounded[6]
8 soldiers wounded[6]
3 Rangers wounded[7]
61 militants killed[8]
50 militants captured
23 students killed[9]
14 civilians killed

The siege of Lal Masjid (Urdu: لال مسجد محاصرہ, code-named Operation Sunrise,[10][11]) was a confrontation in July 2007 centered on the Lal Masjid ("Red Mosque") and Jamia Hafsa madrasah complex in Islamabad, Pakistan between Islamic militants and the government of Pakistan.

Since January 2006, Lal Masjid and adjacent Jamia Hafsa seminary had been run by Islamic militants led by the brothers Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi. This group supported the imposition of Sharia (Islamic religious law) in Pakistan, and openly called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government under President Pervez Musharraf. Lal Masjid came into constant conflict with authorities in Islamabad over a period of 18 months, engaging in violent demonstrations, hate speech, destruction of property, kidnapping, arson, and armed clashes with authorities. After Lal Masjid militants set fire to the Ministry of Environment building and engaged in an armed clash with Army Rangers who were guarding it, a siege of the Lal Masjid complex began.

Following the breakdown of talks between the militants and the state's Shujaat Hussain and Ijaz-ul-Haq, the complex was besieged from July 3 to July 11, 2007. After negotiations failed, it was stormed by the Pakistan Army and members of the Special Service Group and retaken. The conflict resulted in 154 deaths, and 50 militants were captured. The assault prompted pro-Taliban rebels along the border with Afghanistan to scrap a 10-month-old peace agreement with the Pakistani government.[12] This event triggered the Third Waziristan War which has killed more than 3,000 people and marked another surge in militancy and violence in Pakistan.[13]

Contents

Background

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Prior to 2006

The Lal Masjid was founded by Maulana Qari Abdullah in 1965. In English, Lal Masjid means "Red Mosque"; the name refers to the mosque's red walls and interiors. Abdullah taught radical Islam, giving speeches on Jihad during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Since its founding, Lal Masjid was frequented by leaders in the Pakistani military and government. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the Army Chief of Staff who became president after seizing power in a coup d'état in 1977, was close to Abdullah.[14] The mosque is located near the headquarters of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, and several ISI staff were said to go there for prayers.[14]

After the Soviet war in Afghanistan ended in 1989, the mosque continued to function as a center for radical Islamic learning and housed several thousand male and female students in adjacent seminaries.[14]

Maulana Qari Abdullah was assassinated at the mosque in 1998 and since then, the entire complex was run by his sons, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi.[14] The brothers admitted to having had good contacts with many of the wanted leaders of al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden.[14]

Jamia Hafsa was a madrassa for women located near Lal Masjid. It was the largest Islamic religious institute for women in the world, with more than 6,000 students.[15] It was constructed by Maulana Qari Abdullah in 1992 but was placed under the supervision of Maulana Abdul Aziz after his father's assassination.[15] Although the students were taught general subjects, including math and geography, they were not tested on them. Their exams were only on matters relating to Islam.[16]

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the United States, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his support for the U.S.-led War on Terror, sparking conflict with Lal Masjid, whose leadership was openly pro-Taliban.[14] Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi denied having any links with banned terrorist organizations but were vehement in their opposition to the War on Terror and the occupation of Afghanistan. They also openly condemned Musharraf and opposed Pakistani security forces, including the Pakistan Rangers and Islamabad Capital Territory police.[14] The mosque became a center for speeches calling for the assassination of Musharraf.[14] One of these speeches was delivered by Maulana Masood Azhar, whose Jaish-e-Mohammad group members were later involved in failed attempts on the life of the president. In July 2005, Pakistani authorities attempted to raid the mosque in connection with the investigation into the July 7, 2005 London bombings, but police were blocked by baton-wielding female students.[14] However, after the raid, the authorities ended up apologizing for the behavior by the police.[16]

After 2006

During 2006 and the first half of 2007, students and leadership of the mosque continued to challenge the authority of the Islamabad government, calling for Islamic law and an end to cooperation with the United States.

They also launched an anti-vice campaign, kidnapping alleged prostitutes and burning films.[17] Most of the students in the mosque were from the North-West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan.[18]

A confrontation took place when the mosque launched a campaign against the demolition of mosques in Islamabad by the Capital Development Authority. After an illegally constructed mosque was destroyed, students of the seminaries launched an all-out campaign against the government. They prevented the authorities from reaching the site and then occupied the building of a nearby children's library. This was done mostly by the female students, many of whom were carrying machine guns.[14] The students then set up a round-the-clock vigil and promised to "fight to the death" after the government threatened to evict them.[14] The situation was only defused after the authorities backed down and offered talks.[14] The government later reconstructed the demolished part of the mosque compound, but the mosque leadership demanded that six demolished mosques around the capital city be rebuilt.[14]

On March 27, 2007, female students from Jamia Hafsa kidnapped three women they accused of running a brothel and then seized two policemen.[19] All of the women were released after they supposedly admitted to running the brothel and were shown to the media wearing burqas. In an interview with the talk show "Capital Talk," Lal Masjid students claimed that the madam of the brothel had direct contacts with influential people in the government, specifically naming Minister of Railways Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad. Earlier, the neighborhood police station allegedly had approved of and been told about the kidnapping by the students. On April 6, Maulana Abdul Aziz established a sharia court directly parallel to Pakistan's federal judicial system and pledged thousands of suicide attacks if the government tried to shut it down.[19]

Students remained in occupation of the library and continued to challenge the control of the government by raiding a brothel.[14] They also kidnapped 10 Chinese nationals, several law enforcement officials, women, and children.[14] A soft approach taken by the Pakistani government in dealings with the mosque led to accusations of leniency on the part of Musharraf.[14] After a gun battle with Pakistani troops, students set fire to a Ministry of Environment building nearby Lal Masjid.

The Minister for Environment, Faisal Saleh Hayat, stated that he had requested security for the building but the authorities failed to provide it. He also said that contrary to claims made earlier, the ministry was never ordered to vacate the premises for deployment of Pakistan Rangers.[20]

Timeline

Siege

Location of the Lal Masjid

On July 3, 2007, a gun battle erupted between the students of Lal Masjid and Pakistani security forces when Jamia Hafsa students stole radio sets and weapons from the Pakistan Rangers at a nearby post. Riot police then fired tear gas shells to disperse the students. About 150 Lal Masjid students attacked the Ministry of Environment office building, setting fire to the building and to many vehicles. The fighting continued, leaving nine people dead and about 150 injured. Among the dead were four students of the mosque, a TV news channel cameraman, a businessman, and a pedestrian. Within minutes, security forces closed off the area and an emergency was declared in the capital's hospitals. Sporadic clashes continued as Pakistan Army troops were deployed.[21]

The next day, authorities announced an indefinite curfew on the students of the mosque in Sector G-6 of Islamabad, where Lal Masjid is located. A command was issued to shoot anyone coming out of the mosque with weapons. The government offered those inside the mosque who exited unarmed 5,000 Rs. (or about 83 USDs or 41 GBP, plus a free education.[22] Women inside the mosque were also offered safe passage to their homes. Successive deadlines were extended as mosque leaders allowed a certain number of students to surrender, requiring security forces to renegotiate extensions. Government authorities announced the first deadline for students and persons present inside the Lal Masjid to surrender unconditionally by 15:30 Pakistan Standard Time (PST), and it was thereafter extended to 16:00, 18:00, 19:30 and 21:30. The government said that as many as 600 armed militants were still holed up inside the mosque.[22]

Before dawn on July 5, Pakistani troops set off a series of explosions around the mosque. While gunfire was exchanged throughout the day, the clashes apparently stopped. Extension of deadlines continued on July 5, with the government planning to evacuate the mosque and Jamia Hafsa before the final operation took place. Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao announced at a press conference that it was believed that 300 to 400 students remained in the mosque, 50 to 60 of whom were militants.[18]

Following the fourth deadline, the head of the mosque, Abdul Aziz, was captured, disguised in a burqa.[18] At that point, about 800 male students and 400 female students of Jamia Hafsa surrendered to the authorities.[23]

Abdul Aziz's younger brother, Ghazi Abdul Rashid, had been negotiating with a government mediator. He claimed that he and the remaining students would be willing to exit the mosque and lay down their arms provided the government stopped firing on them and granted them amnesty. However, government officials were skeptical that Abdul Rashid would honor his word.[18] In one of the telephone interviews from a live transmission of Geo TV on Thursday, July 5, 2007, Ghazi Abdul Rashid denied all charges against him and reiterated his innocence. He further negotiated with the government to grant him safe passage and to guarantee that no harm would come to his companions inside. In addition, he received a promise that his ailing mother would get care.

The siege continued on July 6. Many negotiation talks were held between the besieged Lal Masjid administration and the government authorities, without a positive outcome. A further 21 students surrendered to the authorities, and two students were killed in a shooting.[24] The government decided to give more time for the safe evacuation of students from the besieged mosque. President Pervez Musharraf issued an ultimatum on Saturday evening.[25] The Pakistani army took control of the operation, replacing the paramilitary troops who were earlier deployed near the premises. One 13-year-old child escaped from the besieged mosque unharmed.[24]

Pakistani commandos raided the outer perimeter of the compound, blasting holes through the walls of the mosque to help women and children escape.[26] The raids began shortly after 1:00 am (20:00 GMT) on July 7 and were met with heavy fire.[26] SSG Commander Lt. Col. Haroon-ul-Islam, who had been leading the operation until he was wounded on July 6, died in the hospital on the night of July 8.[25] However, the commandos succeeded and the boundary wall of Lal Masjid and the Jamia Hafsa collapsed. Abdul Rashid Ghazi said they would not surrender and that they had enough weapons and rations to last a month.

On July 9, a group representing Pakistani madrasahs, headed by Maulana Salimullah Khan, called for an immediate cessation of the Lal Masjid operation. Finland also temporarily closed its embassy in Islamabad on July 9 due to the deteriorating security situation and the proximity of the embassy to the mosque compound.[27] By July 10, the Pakistani government also reported that there were still 100 militants, and 300 to 400 women and children inside the mosque.

Attack on Musharraf's plane

On Friday, July 6, President General Musharraf left for the flood-affected areas of Balochistan. As the president's plane took off from Islamabad airport, some militants fired anti-aircraft guns at it from the roof of a house in the Asghar Mall area of Rawalpindi city.[24] The militants' association with Lal Masjid remains unknown. Security forces captured two anti-aircraft guns along with a machine gun on a rooftop of a Rawalpindi high-rise, just a mile (1.6 km) away from the airport.[24] The government asserted that the firing was heard minutes after the president's plane took off. However, analysts say it may have been retaliation for ongoing operations against Lal Masjid and the government's continuing efforts against terrorism and Talibanization in northern Waziristan.

Preparation for the assault

Predator unmanned aerial vehicles flew over Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa on July 8 and July 9, capturing images of the movements of people inside.[28] The security forces had the images taken to study the claims of Ghazi Abdul Rashid regarding casualties and damage caused to Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa.[28] The UAVs flew over Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa for more than an hour, from 2:40 to 4:00 a.m.[28] High Officials and the Security Forces examined the pictures and relayed the information directly to the command post on the ground.[28] The UAV was given to Pakistan by the United States for the War on Terror.[28] The strategic planning for the assault on the mosque was formulated from information gathered by the drone.[28] Pakistan deployed some of its best security units to attack the militants from the mosque. These include the Army's 111th Brigade; its elite strike force, the Special Service Group (SSG); the Ninth Wing of the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force; and the anti-terrorism squad of the Punjab police.[21]

The Assault

Battle for the mosque

On the morning of July 10, minutes after former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Federal Religious Affairs Minister Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq and their delegation left the area, declaring that negotiations via loudspeaker and mobile phone intended to end the siege peacefully had failed, Pakistani special forces commandos, the Special Service Group, were issued orders to storm the mosque.[29] Pakistan Army spokesman Waheed Arshad said the troops began by attacking and breaching the mosque from the south[30] and assaulted it in three directions at 4:00 a.m. (23:00 GMT).[31] The forces immediately came under a hail of gunfire from heavily armed militants hunkered down behind sandbagged positions on the roof and from holes in the walls of the mosque.[32] The SSG were quickly able to clear the mosque's ground floor, amid explosions coming from the mosque. About 30 women and children ran toward the advancing troops and managed to escape unharmed.[32]

While the SSG were securing the ground floor of the mosque, they continuously were fired on from the mosque's minarets. This slowed down the operation.[33] Atop the mosque roof, the militants had piled sandbags, which they used as steps, at the foot of the minarets, in order to shoot at troops below.[33] After the minarets were taken, the SSG progressed deeper into the complex, and the militants threw gasoline bombs in an attempt to set fire to the mosque to stop the assault but were unsuccessful.[33] Once the ground floor was secured, the SSG attempted to enter the Jamia Hafsa madrasah adjoining the mosque. The militants had laid booby traps, which had to be disabled before the SSG could storm into the Jamia Hafsa complex.[33]

Battle for the Jamia Hafsa complex

The SSG entered the complex, which also served as the living quarters of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, and were engaged in an intense firefight in the main courtyard.[33] Militants fired on them from makeshift bunkers beneath the stairwell.[33] Army spokesman Arshad later claimed that the militants must have been fortifying the bunkers for several months.[33] Once the courtyard had been cleared, the SSG entered the Jamia Hafsa building, a labyrinthine structure. Militants inside the building were armed with guns and rockets. Some areas inside were also booby-trapped.[32] Some militants had bullet- and explosion-proof vests, and other highly sophisticated and modern weapons.[34] The SSG suffered most of their casualties during the battle to take over the complex.[34] During close-quarter combat, the SSG were attacked with smoke grenades, incendiary grenades, and fragmentation grenades.[34] Twenty-nine of the thirty-three SSG commandos who were injured in the operation got their injuries from fragmentation grenades.[34] As the fighting continued, the SSG came upon a room where half a dozen militants were present, and one of the militants detonated his suicide jacket, killing everyone in the room.[34] It took several hours of intense fighting before the SSG took control of the Jamia Hafsa, with only the basement left to be pacified.

Final stand

Arshad said troops had secured 80 percent of the complex and were moving slowly as the resistance was intense in the remaining areas.[29] Heavily armed militants had retreated into the basement using women and children as human shields, and the standoff continued.[35] The militants in the basement resisted with machine guns, rocket launchers, and Molotov cocktails. In a last interview with Geo TV during the operation, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was hunkered down in the basement, claimed that his mother had been wounded by gunfire and was quoted as saying; "The government is using full force. This is naked aggression... my murder is certain now." Ghazi also claimed that 30 rebels were still battling Pakistani troops but they only had 14 AK-47s.[36]

From the basement, the militants continued to fire at the SSG commandos from ventilation grilles.[33] During the firefight, Abdul Rashid Ghazi was shot in the leg and was asked to surrender.[37] However, other militants in the room fired back at the SSG, and Ghazi was killed in the crossfire.[37] Further reports say that Ghazi came out of a bunker to surrender but was shot by his militants.[37] The fighting continued until the last of the militants trapped in the basement were either killed or had surrendered.

Behind an Army cordon, emergency workers waited for clearance to enter Lal Masjid. Female police officers were present to handle female survivors or casualties. Relatives of the militants inside the Lal Masjid were also behind the cordon. The Associated Press reported: "The siege has given the neighborhood the look of a war zone, with troops manning machine guns behind sandbagged posts and from the top of armored vehicles.[38]

Mosque secured

On July 11, officials reported that the Lal Masjid complex had been cleared of militants and troops were combing the area for booby traps and explosives. The eight-day Lal Masjid operation was the longest ever conducted by the Special Service Group (SSG), the elite strike force of the Pakistan Army.[39]

According to Inter-Services Public Relations, weapons were recovered from bullet-riddled Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa complex, including Russian made RPG and Chinese variant RPG-7 rockets,[39] anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines, suicide bombing belts, three to five .22-caliber rifles, RPD, RPK and RPK-74 light machine guns, Dragunov sniper rifles, SKS rifles, AK-47s, pistols, night vision equipment, and more than 50,000 rounds of various caliber ammunition.[39] Lesser sophisticated items and weaponry to be recovered from the complex included three crates of gasoline bombs prepared from green soft drink bottles, gas masks, recoilless rifles, two-way radios, large plastic buckets containing homemade bombs the size of tennis balls, as well as bladed weapons such as knives.[39]

Intelligence agencies expressed shock at the highly sophisticated weapons that the militants in the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa compound had,[34] and began an investigation as to where these militants had obtained such equipment.[34]

Pakistan Army spokesman Waheed Arshad said that a suicide bomber had detonated himself in the mosque located at the opposite side of the complex to the seminary.[39] Arshad also said a second suicide bomber had detonated himself in the white-domed mosque.[39] It took 36 hours to fully secure the complex from militants and remove booby traps.[4]

Casualties

Officials in Islamabad hailed the operation a success, saying they were able to kill all the fighters inside the mosque -— a group that allegedly included foreign terrorists -— without a heavy civilian toll. "The number of casualties was much lower than it could have been," said Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's prime minister.[4] Of the 164 SSG Army commandos that had laid siege to the mosque on July 3 and stormed it later, 10 were martyred and 33 were wounded.[4]

The Inspector General of Police reported that from July 3 until July 11, 1,096 people -— 628 men, 465 women, and 3 children -—had exited or had been rescued from the complex.[40] The IGP also confirmed that 102 people had been killed during the operation -— 91 civilians, 10 Special Service Group commandos and one Rangers soldier -— including the 16 deaths on July 10. A total of 248 people were injured—204 civilians, 41 army soldiers and 3 Rangers personnel. Seventy-five bodies were recovered from the premises of the complex at the end of the operation.[40] The deaths of the last holdouts at Lal Masjid, brought to an end nine days period of tension in Islamabad, a normally tranquil city that until recently had been immune from the violence from the tribal areas in Pakistan.[4]

Army spokesman Arshad said during the operation, 85 people were rescued from the complex, of whom 56 were males and the rest were females.[33] He also said 39 of them were under the age of 18.[33] "With militants in different rooms, firing from behind pillars, and then going into basements and clearing it, you can understand the difficulties," he told the journalists.[33]

Nineteen bodies were burned beyond recognition, but Pakistani officials said none of them appeared to be women or children.[39] According to an article in The Nation, a grave digger at the cemetery where the bodies were being buried claimed there was a possibility that there was more than one body in each coffin. The article also stated that the government was digging more graves on top of those already established. [41] The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which is a coalition of hardline religious parties, claimed that 400 to 1,000 students were killed, including women and children.[42] Spanish-language news channels such as Univision, Antena 3, and Telecinco claimed that the total number of deaths in the siege is greater than 286 and could be 300.[43][44]

Pakistani investigators probing links between Lal Masjid and terrorists have discovered the enrollment registers detailing the male and female students who studied at the seminary.[34] The investigators believe the information, which was found in the Jamia Hafsa complex, would help clear up uncertainty about the number of people killed or missing in the operation.[34] Officials believe the list of registered students matches the number of students evacuated or captured from the mosque and Jamia Hafsa.[34]

Damage to mosque

The damage to the mosque was extensive. The entrance hall was totally burned out, the ceiling was scorched, and the red walls above the oval doorway were blackened. However, the mosque itself sustained less damage than the Jamia Hafsa seminary. Bullet casings were found all over the mosque roof, and the inside of Lal Masjid had turned coal black, when the militants had tried to set the mosque on fire using gasoline bombs. Militants had used the mosque’s two white minarets as a vantage point, which resulted in the damage of the minarets. One of the minarets was completely destroyed and the speakers for the call to prayer were hanging off their wires.[39] The dome, however, was not damaged during the 36-hour battle. The director general of the Inter Services Public Relations said some of the photographs of the bodies seem to indicate that foreigners were among the dead.[33]

In the Jamia Hafsa complex, the damage was intense, and thousands of bullet holes marked the courtyard. The basement was blackened from rockets that were fired.[33] The main buildings of the complex were intact, while the boundary walls had been breached in several places. The building had bullet marks on its cement structure.[33] The concrete and white plaster walls of the complex were riddled by gunfire from commandos, who breached the southern walls of the four-story building and traded fire with the militants, who had fortified their positions. Around two courtyards inside the school, plain concrete rooms were filled with shattered glass and spent rounds of ammunition. Piles of the girls’ bed rolls and stacks of their books were shunted against walls.[33]

On July 15, the Capital Development Authority was asked by the government to complete the repair and rehabilitation of Lal Masjid within 15 days,[45] and on July 27, the mosque was reopened to the public. However, the Jamia Hafsa complex was demolished because it was illegally constructed and was in danger of collapsing.[46]

Al-Qaeda and foreign fighters

Pakistani intelligence officials said they found letters from Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, after taking control of Lal Masjid.[47] They were written to Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Abdul Aziz Ghazi and directed the brothers and the militants into an armed revolt. Government sources said up to 18 foreign fighters, including Uzbeks, Egyptians, and several Afghans had arrived weeks before the final shootout and set up firing ranges to teach students, including children, how to handle weapons.[47] Diplomats were surprised by the speed with which Zawahiri condemned the attack on the mosque and called on Pakistanis to rise up against Musharraf's government. Officials blamed the presence of foreign fighters for the breakdown of negotiations at the Lal Masjid Mosque just as they seemed about to reach a deal to end the standoff peacefully.[47] According to government sources and western diplomats, Al-Qaeda fighters in the mosque sought martyrdom instead.[47]

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Zawahiri, issued a videotape on July 11, 2007 calling for Pakistanis to join jihad, in revenge for the attack by the Pakistan's Army on the mosque.[48 ] Al-Zawahri's four minute address was titled The Aggression against Lal Masjid, and entirely focused on the clash between the Lal Masjid militants and the Pakistan Army. The video was released by al-Qaeda's media wing, as-Sahab and was also subtitled in English.[48 ]

Reactions

Pakistani public

Although many Pakistanis were silent about the operation against Lal Masjid, most of them disagreed that the government was right to take action, because it seemed to be a terrorist act by the Pakistan Army on its own people.[49 ] While hardliners have been able to stir up anger each time President Pervez Musharraf moves against them, most people have been tolerant Muslims and opposed the militant drive to impose Islamic law.[49 ] Most residents of Islamabad agreed that the deadly climax of the three-month standoff has restored calm despite the fear of retaliation.[49 ] After a couple of years, most residents are convinced that the action, however late, was useful to restore calm, which had been disturbed by the clergy of Islamabad. Now no cleric dares spread hatred and violence, fearing a fate like that of Lal Masjid.

Pakistani media

In a televised address to the nation of Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf said that he was determined to eradicate extremism and terrorism in Pakistan.[50]

Dawn supported the government's actions against Lal Masjid but also asked: "... how the intelligence agencies failed to get wind of the goings-on in the Lal Masjid and the stockpiling of arms and ammunition in such large quantities."[51]

The Daily Times also supported the government's position and said: "Let us be clear. No government can violate the universal principle of 'no negotiation with terrorists' and live to be praised."[51]

The News was more critical and said: "Once 'Operation Silence' is over, the firing stops, the dust settles down and the bodies are counted, there are bound to be many questions raised. Why didn't the government take action earlier against the clerics because had that been the case so many lives would not have been lost? Why were the Lal Masjid elements allowed so much leeway that the complex became almost like a state within a state, complete with a moral policing force which acted with impunity enforcing a rigid interpretation of Islam on the city's residents? How did so many hardened militants, reportedly some foreigners among them, make their way inside the compound situated in the heart of Islamabad?".[51]

The Post was worried as to how the episode would affect Pakistan and said: "This is going to ratchet up religious sentiments, and could lead to increased polarization between the moderates and extremists in the country, the former including General Musharraf under the banner of 'enlightened moderation'."[51]

The Islam newspaper criticized the government and said: "The government cannot absolve itself of the tragedy. If it wanted, the matter could have been resolved at the start. But this was not done and, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, our own security forces not only bombarded a mosque and religious seminary, but also brought in armored personnel carriers, tanks and helicopter gunships in numbers that made you wonder. This shows that all this activity was masterminded by some satanic minds. This incident is tragic, shameful and dangerous. How much it has harmed the country and the nation, and how worse an impact it will leave on the country on the future, can at this point only be imagined."[51]

Nawa-i-Waqt wrote in its editorial: "The entire nation is drowned in shock and grief today. They are mourning the brute use of force. Now we need a comprehensive inquiry over the operation against the Red Mosque. The report should be made public so that the people can know the actual facts."[51]

The Ausaf daily stated: "The entire nation is grieving... only the USA wanted what happened and proof of that is that the storming operation was celebrated at the White House and Pentagon rather than at General Musharraf's HQ."[52]

The Pakistan Observer praised the government and said: "The Government deserves credit for showing remarkable tolerance and patience and exhausted all possible avenues for peaceful settlement of the nerve-shattering crisis".[51]

International reactions

China backed Pakistani President Musharraf in his stance against Lal Masjid.[53] The Chinese Minister of Public Security, Zhou Yongkang Zhou, referred explicitly to the Lal Masjid militants as terrorists and demanded that Pakistan act more forcefully to protect Chinese nationals working in the country.[53]

The European Union President, José Manuel Barroso, issued a statement that it "supports the Government of Pakistan in the defense of the rule of law and the wrist of the State against the threat posed by such armed radical groups in the context of fight against extremism."[54] While it also praised the "restraint and moderation showed by the Pakistani authorities."[54]

Bryan D. Hunt, the United States' consul in Lahore, was quoted as saying that the U.S. government supported the Pakistani government and that "the militants were given many warnings but instead of surrendering they decided to fight and challenge the writ of government."[55] Hunt also said that the U.S. fully supports Pakistan in the War on Terror and considers Pakistan "their closest ally in South Asia."[55] Religious parties and figures criticized the support extended by a U.S. consular official to the operation against Lal Masjid and demanded that the government expel him for interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs. Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam has characterized the U.S. consulate official’s statement as contrary to diplomatic norms and open interference in the country’s internal affairs. She said a protest would be lodged.[56]

President George W. Bush gave his support to Musharraf as "a strong ally in the war against these extremists."[57]

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey noted that the militants had been given many warnings before the commandos moved on the sprawling Red Mosque compound before dawn. He said, "The government of Pakistan has proceeded in a responsible way. All governments have a responsibility to preserve order."[58]

India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan, did not officially give any reaction or comments on the Lal Masjid issue. However, it gave indirect support to Pakistan and indicated it has Pakistan's willingness to fight terrorism.[59]

Aftermath

On August 16, 2007, acting on a suo motu notice, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took up the extrajudicial killings of the people at the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa complex. Performance of the Islamabad administration attracted the reprimand of the court for slow pace. The court was informed that 61 students were in custody, of whom 39 were on bailable offenses. The Chief Justice of Pakistan directed immediate release of 22 innocent people as recommended by a joint investigation team. National Crisis Management Cell Director Javed Iqbal Cheema told the court that 28 DNA tests had not been confirmed. The chief justice also pointed out that Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali had said in a statement that 30 bodies remained unidentified.[60]

Mohammed Ahsan Bhoon, president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, said: "This issue could have been resolved through negotiations but General Musharraf intentionally spilled the blood of innocent people to please his foreign masters."[61] Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim said that the Lal Masjid assault had sent a strong message that the government "meant business."[61]

President Pervez Musharraf vowed in a nationally televised address that he would "crush extremists throughout Pakistan and move against religious schools like those at the Lal Masjid and those that breed them."[61] The Lal Masjid siege gave hardliners in Pakistan another rallying point, as well as new martyrs, and prompted al-Qaida and the Taliban into launching retaliation attacks in Pakistan.

The first attack came after the operation against the mosque on July 12, 2007, when two suicide attacks killed six people in northwest Pakistan.[61] Another twenty-eight soldiers were killed when a suicide attacker struck a military convoy in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border on July 14.[47]

The bodies of about 70 of the militants found after the Lal Masjid operation, were buried in a graveyard near Islamabad.[61] In order to help relatives to identify and claim the bodies later, officials took photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples from the bodies before burial in temporary graves.

Since the end of the siege, there have been renewed attacks in Pakistan, what is now being called the Third Waziristan War, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani soldiers, hundreds of civilians, 1,500 militants, and politician Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a suicide attack on December 27, 2007.

2008

On July 6, 2008 at 7:50 PM local time, a bomb exploded near Lal Masjid killing 18 policemen and a civilian. Pakistani officials claim that the bombing, occurring on the 1st anniversary of the siege, was a revenge attack and was the work of a suicide bomber around 30 years of age. [62]

See also

References

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External links

Photos


Simple English


The Lal Masjid siege was a conflict centering around the Lal Masjid mosque and madrasah complex in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, that was besieged from July 3 to July 11, 2007.



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