Musharraf vows 'war on extremists'

Pakistani president strongly defends army assault on the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

    Musharraf addressed the nation on Thursday, his
    first since the mosque standoff [AFP]

    Earlier Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, urged Pakistanis to revolt against Musharraf's rule.
    In a statement posted on the internet, he said: "If you do not revolt, Musharraf will annihilate you. Musharraf will not stop until he uproots Islam from Pakistan."
    At least 75 followers of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of the two brother who ran the Red Mosque, were killed in the assault on the Lal Masjid complex in Pakistan's capital city.
    Most of them were interred without ceremony in numbered wooden coffins before daybreak on Thursday, with no relatives present.
    Meanwhile, Ghazi was buried by grieving relatives in his ancestral village in Punjab province, where mourners broke the glass lid of the coffin and pulled a cloth from the corpse's face to see if it really was the cleric.
    In his speech, Musharraf said: "It is a day to mourn, it is a day for introspection, grief and sorrow ... We acted against our own people."

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    The president said he was "sad over the loss of lives in the operation" but that military action against the Lal Masjid had become "inevitable".
    Musharraf also said within the next six months security forces along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan would be equipped with modern weaponry, including tanks, to bolster a "counter-terrorism" push.
    The mosque compound remains surrounded by troops behind barbed wire but journalists were allowed to see inside on Thursday.
    "When we entered the mosque we were able to see on the outside all the glass was shattered," Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said.
    "Inside the compound we saw walls peppered with gunfire ... you could smell the gunpowder inside and outside the compound."
    The military showed journalists a massive arsenal of weapons including suicide vests, grenade launchers and mines.
    Suicide attacks

    Most were interred without ceremony
    in numbered wooden coffins  [Reuters] 

    Meanwhile, two suspected suicide attacks in northwest Pakistan have killed at least seven people, including three police officers.
    Almost 30 people have been killed in attacks on security forces and government targets in the northwest frontier region since the army laid siege to the Red Mosque, raising fears of a backlash.
    A suicide bomb attack at the office of a senior government official in the North Waziristan tribal region killed two people, a witness wounded in the blast said.
    "A man dressed in black blew himself up when he was stopped by an office worker in Khan's office," Sher Zaman told Reuters news agency from his hospital bed in Miranshah.
    Another suicide attack targeted a police vehicle in the town of Swat town killing five, including three policemen, Shamsul Qamar, an official at the police control room in Swat, said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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