Pakistani security forces launch the assault on the Taliban mosque in Islamabad
After a week of negotiations and skirmishes at the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, which left over 20 dead and 100 wounded, the final assault on the compound has begun. Pakistani security forces, led by the elite 111 Brigade, the Special Services Group, and the Pakistani Rangers, launched a major offensive early Tuesday morning Pakistan time on the radical Islamist mosque in the heart of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Islamabad is said to be rocked with explosions. Metroblogging Pakistan provides the details of the opening moves of the assault, with rolling updates.
Talks between the government and Lal Masjid have failed. The religious leaders from the government side came back disappointed, and shut off their mobiles. Final operation given a go ahead. Operation started at 4.30 am, after a government’s press conference. Severe fighting going on since 4:45 am. Commandos have entered the complex. More than 70 big explosions. 2 elite force officers dead. 8 severely injured. The whole of Islamabad is rocking with mega explosions, and intense firing. More than 30 ambulances deployed and in action. According to the reports by Ghazi Abdul-ur-Rasheed his mother died during the assault. A significant number of dead bodies inside the complex. According to the military spokesman, the militants are using rocket launchers, grenades, and heavy arms. Meanwhile when the operation started, 20 children were safely recovered. DG ISPR [Inter Services Public Relations] has reported that the operation will be completed in 3 hours, and currently militants are present in the basement of the complex. Some militants are showing resistance from the top of the complex. Clouds of heavy smoke rising from the complex. Islamabad has been sealed off from all directions so people coming to the capital from outside should take appropriate measures.
10th July 7:00 AM
A part of Lal Masjid on fire!! Black smoke rising from the complex. Intense fighting going on, and severe resistance from the militants.
10th July 7:15 AM
Commandos enter the basement!. The top of complex has been cleared. 10 big buses dispatched towards Lal Masjid. Intense shelling of tear gas and firing continues and rounds of automatic weapons can be heard from here. Ghazi Rasheed says he will fight till martyrdom. Security forces dead bodies being rushed to PIMS. 50 people arrested from the complex till now. Residents of G-6 advised not to leave their homes. 70 resistants killed or injured in the operation so far.
10th July 7:20 AM
3 special forces personal die. 20 militants casualties. 15 militants injured. Nerve gas used in the basement. Firing has reduced a somewhat probably due to causalities within the complex. 40% of the complex under security forces control. A significant portion of the complex was bobby trapped according to the army spokesman
10th July 7:30 AM
Firing has subsided a lot, which could probably mean that security forces have essentially taken over a major portion of the complex. Operation probably has moved into it’s final phases. Media persons not allowed near the quadrent off site, and security personal have been ordered to shoot them on sight. Media people not allowed near the hospitals too. Scout helicopters flying over the complex.
Speculation on an all out assault on the mosque began Sunday after the commander of the Special Services Group was killed by gunfire from the mosque and the government issued a “last warning.” Up to 60 hardcore jihadis, including members of the allied Jaish-e-Mohammad, are believed to be holed up in the mosque. “Prime Minister Aziz said he had a list of several ‘heavyweight’ militants inside the mosque but refused to give their names,” the Daily Times reported. “He said there was a hardcore of 40 extremists, led by three or four key rebels.”
Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, the leaders of the Red Mosque, have repeatedly threatened to launch a suicide campaign if the mosque was assaulted by Pakistani security forces. Abdul Aziz is in government custody after attempting to escape the mosque in a burka on July 4. Members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is the new name of the banned terror group and al Qaeda affiliate Lashkar-e-Taiba, were also captured attempting to escape the mosque late last week. Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been put on the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list.
Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, who has held out in the Red Mosque, has been reported captured. He was reportedly on the phone with Aaj TV when Commandos “apparently arrived at his location in the Red Mosque compound in central Islamabad.”
“Commandos are at the door of my room,” Ghazi told Aaj TV. Ghazi threatened to martyr himself rather than be taken alive.
Talks between Ghazi and Pakistan Muslim League President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pakistani Islamist members of parliament broke down on Tuesday. Shujaat was pushing for amnesty for Ghazi along the lines given to the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province. “Shujaat discussed with Musharraf a proposal for general amnesty after seeking guarantees from the clerics that Ghazi had agreed to live in his ancestral village without creating trouble for the government,” the Daily Times reported. Talks broke down after the representatives refused to enter the mosque, and Ghazi refused to meet the delegation outside.
The situation in the Northwest Frontier Province, a base of support for the Red Mosque, remains tense. Over “20,000 tribesmen, including hundreds of masked militants wielding assault rifles, protested in the frontier region of Bajaur, led by Maulana Faqir Mohammed, a wanted cleric suspected of ties to al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” the Associated Press reported. Faqir has sheltered Zawahiri in the past.
Faqir’s banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) went on a rampage in Bajaur on Monday. The TNSM hit a Bajaur Levies patrol in an IED attack, killing one and wounding six. In a separate incident, the TNSM attacked a levies checkpoint and kidnapped four soldiers.
The TNSM is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. Faqir Mohammed, a senior leader of the TNSM in neighboring Bajaur agency who is wanted by the Pakistani government, kicked off a suicide campaign after the air strike on the Chingai madrassa in October 2006. Forty-five Pakistani soldiers were killed after a suicide bomber sent by Faqir struck at Pakistani Army recruits training outside of the Dargai base in the NWFP. The Pakistani government signed Bajaur over to Faqir and the TNSM in March 2006. Bajaur is a command and control center for al Qaeda’s operations in northeastern Pakistan.
See The Fall of the Northwest Frontier Province for more information of the deteriorating security situation.
Previous articles on the Red Mosque standoff: