Pakistan buries Red Mosque dead

Al-Qaeda statement calls on Pakistanis to rise up against the government.

    Musharraf, far right, is expected to explain why it
    was necessary to raid the Red Mosque [Reuters]

    The first numbered wooden coffins were lowered into unmarked graves at a graveyard in the suburbs of the capital before dawn.
    There were no relatives present.


    "We are burying them here until their relatives come and identify them," Rana Akbar Hayat, a city administrator, said.

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    "All the victims have been fingerprinted and photographed and their DNA test has been taken to help parents and relatives identity them, then the bodies will be handed over."

    Officials said Musharraf would explain on Thursday why the raid on the Red Mosque, which killed at least 73 of the mosque's followers and nine soldiers, was necessary. 

    He is also expected to unveil an initiative to fight extremism and improve security near the border with Afghanistan.

    Al-Zawahiri told Pakistanis in a statement posted on the internet that there was "no salvation for you except through jihad" and called on them to rise up against the government.
    "If you do not revolt, Musharraf will annihilate you. Musharraf will not stop until he uproots Islam from Pakistan," he said.

    "Rigged elections and politics will not help you ... You should now support the mujahidin [holy warriors] in Afghanistan."

    No mass graves

    The mosque compound remains off-limits, surrounded by troops behind barbed wire, as Pakistani authorities said they had not found any mass graves during their search of the site, despite Ghazi having said hundreds of people had been buried there.
    "No mass graves have been found inside," Tariq Azeem, deputy information minister, said.

    Pakistani forces continue to surround the
    mosque complex in Islamabad [AFP]

    However, a severed head was  discovered by security officials, indicating that there was a suicide blast during the operation, Azeem said.

    An unused suicide belt packed with explosives was also reportedly found.

    Meanwhile, parents and relatives continued to search the city's hospitals, hoping to find their missing children.
    "I have searched almost every hospital in the city," Noor Mohammad from Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region, whose 13-year-old son was in the mosque when the commandos moved in, said.
    "My elder son talked to Alam two days after the siege began and since then we have not heard from him."

    The government has said that no bodies of children or women had been found inside the mosque despite claims that hundreds of them were being held hostage inside.

    Some newspapers and observers expressed doubt about the claim.

    "It will be a sort of miracle if no woman or children died," Anees Jillani, human rights activist and lawyer, said. "It is a big achievement for the army then."

    Around 60 women and children have emerged from the complex since special forces launched the assault at dawn on Tuesday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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