12 dead as Lal Masjid students provoke gunfight
ISLAMABAD, July 4(Daily Times):Twelve people were killed and around 150 injured in a daylong shootout
between madrassa students and Rangers near Lal Masjid on Tuesday.
administration confirmed that one journalist, a Rangers soldier, a businessman,
madrassa students and bystanders were among the dead. Unconfirmed reports
suggested that the death toll had mounted to 16.
The shootout began at
around 11am after students of Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Fareedia, madrassas
affiliated with Lal Masjid, marched towards the nearby Environment Ministry
building and a security picket outside it. The students snatched weapons from
police and took four officials hostage, according to police.
fired teargas to repel them, and students stationed inside the mosque responded
by opening fire, witnesses said.
The students set fire to the ministry
and Estate Office buildings in front of their madrassas. The buildings were
almost completely gutted as fire fighters could not reach the spot due to heavy
firing from both sides.
The Rangers had taken up positions in these two
buildings and the nearby F G Girls High School after evacuating government staff
from them on Monday.
The pitched battles continued all day. Students
carrying batons mixed up with the general public who had gathered there to
witness the battle and threw stones at security personnel.
armed with AK-47s and wearing gas masks took up positions behind sandbags on the
roof of the mosque and bunkers inside the mosque courtyard, chanting "Jihad,
jihad!". Armed madrassa students continued to roam around in front of the mosque
and nearby roads after dark.
As gunfire rang out, loudspeaker
announcements from the mosque urged "fedayeen" (suicide attackers) to prepare
themselves. "Jihad against the government has started. Arrest these rangers and
police officials wherever they are seen," said other announcements.
Captain Zafar Iqbal said that the "Lal Masjid administration
initiated the action and now we are into it". He said there were reports of 11
unconfirmed deaths and 16 arrests so far.
At least 148 people were
reported injured, some with bullet wounds but most due to teargas
The roads leading to Lal Masjid were closed and Appra and
Melody markets remained closed throughout the day.
MMA MNA Maulana Shah
Abdul Aziz visited Lal Masjid and made an abortive attempt to broker a
A five-member committee including Maulana Zahoor Alvi,
Maulana Nazir Farooqi, Maulana Saeedur Rehman, Senator Telha Mehmood and Qazi
Rasheed started negotiations with the Lal Masjid clerics to resolve the crisis
on Tuesday night.
Among the confirmed dead were journalist Javed Khan,
Rangers soldier Mubarik Hussain, student Muhammad Rafi, Muhammad Ijaz, a
labourer, Umraiz Ahmed, a businessman, Ghulam Hussain, and an unidentified Uzbek
Reuters adds: Three journalists, including two westerners, were
conducting interviews in the Jamia Hafsa madrassa for girls in the mosque's
compound when the shooting started, and were believed to be still inside.
The government said it wanted talks. "Despite unprovoked firing by the
students of Lal Masjid, the government still wants to settle the issue through
dialogue," State Interior Minister Zafar Warraich told PTV.
some 5,000 students at the madrassas affiliated to the Lal Masjid, most of them
from poorer parts of NWFP.