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Female Islamic Students in Pakistan Kidnap Brothel Owner


Pakistani security forces are on high alert after female students from an Islamist school in the capital kidnapped the alleged owner of a local brothel. Student protestors later seized two police officers sparking a tense standoff in the heart of the Pakistani capital. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports.

Thousands of mostly female students, their faces hidden behind veils, chant anti-government slogans as they brandish wooden batons.

The standoff erupted Wednesday outside the Jamia Hafsa seminary in central Islamabad.

Overnight Tuesday hundreds of female students from the hard-line Islamic school abducted an alleged brothel owner and several of her relatives, including a six-month-old baby during an apparent anti-vice campaign.

Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who runs the seminary, defended the student raid saying checking unIslamic practices in the community is the duty of every law abiding Muslim.

"She is a prostitute," Ghazi said. "The police confirmed that she has been doing these illegal actions but have not been able to do anything against her and instead they arrested and kidnapped our female teachers."

Pakistani authorities have confirmed the arrests of at least four of the school's teachers for their role in the raid.

However, late Wednesday night the tensions eased a bit when the Islamic cleric announced the administration had agreed to release the teachers.

But he did not discuss the fate of the alleged prostitutes who remain under control of the maddrassa students.

Ghazi and his brother help run the controversial Lal Masjid mosque, which is widely considered Islamabad's most conservative and is suspected of having ties to several outlawed militant groups.

The seizure and subsequent standoff is an unexpected provocation in what has been a months-long deadlock between government forces and the mosque's supporters.

Students from its madrassa have held a sit-in at a nearby city children's library since January to protest the government's decision to demolish illegally constructed mosques with ties Lal Masjid.

That standoff continues and the library itself remains an ad hoc operations base for student radicals associated with the Lal Masjid.

The government meanwhile insists it is still looking for a peaceful settlement fueling speculation that government forces are looking for ways to avoid a direct confrontation with the city's religious hard-liners.

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