Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Red Mosque siege prompts calls for revenge

AP , BASTI ABDULLAH, PAKISTAN

Pakistani mourners shower rose petals onto the graves of dead militants of the radical Red Mosque at a graveyard in Islamabad yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

The captured chief cleric of the Red Mosque led funeral prayers for his slain brother yesterday and forecast that the death of the mosque's militant defenders would push Pakistan toward an "Islamic revolution."

The army crackdown on the radical mosque has raised the standing of President General Pervez Musharraf among moderates and foreign backers worried about rising extremism in Pakistan. But it has given hard-liners a rallying point and new martyrs to mourn, prompting calls from al-Qaeda and Taliban for revenge attacks.

Troops combing the Islamabad mosque and its adjoining seminary for girls found Abdul Rashid Ghazi's body among the remains of at least 73 people after the 35-hour assault ended on Wednesday.

The remains of dozens of militants were lowered into temporary graves in Islamabad early yesterday.

Officials released Ghazi's body directly to his relatives, who carried it to his ancestral village in Punjab Province for burial yesterday.

Police escorted Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was caught during the eight-day siege while trying to flee disguised as a woman, to Basti Abdullah so that he could attend his brother's funeral at a seminary set up by his father.

The brother took over the running of the Red Mosque in the capital after their father's assassination in a sectarian attack in 1998.

"Hundreds of our mothers, sisters, sons and daughters have rendered sacrifices," said Aziz, a gray-bearded man dressed in white clothes and a checkered head scarf, before leading prayers attended by about 3,000 people.

"Whatever happened in the past days is not hidden from anyone. God willing, Pakistan will have an Islamic revolution soon. The blood of martyrs will bear fruit," he said.

"We can let our necks be severed but we cannot bow down before oppressive rulers. Our struggle will continue. There are many Ghazis living to be martyred," he said.

About two dozen police commandos led Aziz into the madrasah compound and escorted him back after the funeral prayers and drove him away in a white police pickup truck.

Some 700 police were deployed for security at the gathering, area police chief Maqsoodul Hassan Chaudhry said.

Official reports said that 106 people died in eight days of fighting around the Red Mosque.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda's deputy leader joined the militant outcry against Musharraf, calling on Pakistanis to wage holy war to avenge the army assault.

In a video, Ayman al-Zawahri told Pakistanis their president "rubbed your honor in the dirt."

Ghazi's death was a "dirty, despicable crime" that can "only be washed away by repentance or blood," said al-Zawahri, who is believed to be hiding near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

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