Red Mosque in Islamabad stormed, at least 40 militants killed
( RIA Novosti ) - At least 40 Islamic militants have been killed as troops stormed the besieged Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) compound in Islamabad early Tuesday in a bid to end a tense weeklong standoff.
Pakistani Army spokesman Gen. Waheed Arshad said troops entered the mosque after last-ditch talks failed to persuade the nearly 1,000 students inside to surrender.
"Three soldiers were killed in the assault," he said, adding that about 20 children had been rescued from an adjoining school.
A delegation led by former Prime Minister Chaudry Shujaat Hussain had attempted to negotiate a peaceful end to the siege with mosque leader Abdul Rashid Gazi, but talks failed and the assault began minutes after the officials left the compound.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard throughout the city as troops moved in at dawn.
The militants were believed to be holding about 150 hostages inside, among them many women and children, although they had previously insisted that all those remaining in the mosque were there voluntarily and preferred martyrdom to surrender.
The assault culminates a six-month campaign by hardline clerics at the mosque to impose Taliban-style rule in the capital. Ensuing battles with security forces left scores dead and many more wounded.