07/27/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Fresh clashes between police and fundamentalists in the Red Mosque

Qaiser Felix
Police have intervened to quash fundamentalists who took control of the mosque this morning chasing out the government-appointed imam and expelling journalists. A suicide bomber blew himself up in an Islamabad hotel killing at least 12 people.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Violence has returned to Islamabad’s red mosque.  Police have intervened with force after a group of fundamentalists took control again of the complex, chasing out the government-appointed imam and expelling journalists. Clashes around the mosque have caused “some victims”.  At least a dozen people however have been confirmed dead in a suicide bomb attack on a hotel in the city centre.

The building reopened just this morning after the military stormed it on July 12 in an operation that ended in a bloodbath that left 102 people dead and many in police custody.

Now the mosque compound is back in fundamentalist hands and they will not tolerate outside religious leaders.

After throwing out journalists damaging their cameras, they called for the immediate release and reinstatement of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the former prayer leader who was arrested by the police on July 12 and is now in detention. For them he is the only legitimate mosque leader, the only one who can lead Friday prayers.

Inside the mosque people continued chanting slogans in favour of “Jihad” and against the government.

After taking over the mosque, the government tried to change its name, but the fundamentalists have scribbled ‘Lal Masjid’ or ‘Red Mosque’ all over its walls, hurling Islamic flags on its roof.

The police stated that because today was the day of prayer it would not intervene, but later it was decided that the building should be retaken, which was done.

At present it is also unclear whether those who occupied the mosque were former students or supporters of Abdul Aziz.

The same thing happened to members of the security forces.

Police sources reported that some 400 people initially entered the building but their number is now steadily growing.

Some leaders of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six religious-political parties, tried to enter the mosque but were turned away violently.

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