Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Shots fired at Musharraf's aircraft; top cleric defiant

AGENCIES , ISLAMABAD

Gunmen fired at Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's aircraft as it took off yesterday, while a radical cleric holed up with hundreds of followers at an Islamabad mosque said they would rather die than surrender.

The military denied there had been an attack on the president but later called a news conference. An intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been an unsuccessful attempt on Musharraf's life.

There was no indication the attack on Musharraf's plane was connected with the siege at the mosque, now in its fourth day.

At dusk, a half dozen explosions rocked the area around the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, shooting debris high above the tree tops along with plumes of smoke and red dust. The third day of the siege also began with explosions and gunfire, but troops appeared to be holding back from a potentially bloody assault.

"We will not surrender. We will be martyred, but we will not surrender," Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the top-ranking cleric holed up inside the mosque complex, told a television station. "We are more determined now."

Government spokesman Tariq Azim told Dawn News Television that Ghazi's talk about martyrdom was a bluff, adding his brother Maulana Abdul Aziz, who had headed the mosque, said the same thing and then was arrested trying to sneak out of the complex disguised as a woman on Wednesday.

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