Accessibility links

Musharraf Addresses Nation in Wake of Pakistan Mosque Seige


In a televised address to the nation, Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf vowed to eliminate extremism and terrorism from "every corner of the country." The president spoke a day after government forces ended their bloody siege of Islamabad's Red Mosque, where more than 100 people died in the eight-day operation. From Islamabad, VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports.

In a nearly hour-long speech, the Pakistani President defended the government's action amid mounting concerns of a possible militant backlash.

He said the assault would not eliminate extremism and terrorism, but the government's resolve is unwavering in defeating the menace in every province and every corner of the country.

Pakistani commandos stormed the mosque Tuesday after a weeklong stand-off with scores of heavily armed militants who were barricaded inside.

Lal Masjid, or the Red Mosque, was a well-known source of Islamic militancy, and its supporters repeatedly challenged the government's authority in recent months. Students from the mosque's madrassa or religious school led a violent campaign to impose strict Islamic law on the capital.

Mr. Musharraf said the government showed both "patience and tolerance" while doing everything it could to resolve the standoff peacefully. He said negotiations failed, because the mosque's leaders were demanding a complete amnesty and safe passage out of Islamabad.

Officials say at least 75 militants and 10 soldiers were killed during the assault, although independent confirmation of the final death toll remains unavailable.

Hours before President Musharraf's speech, hundreds of mourners helped bury the mosque's firebrand cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, near his ancestral village in eastern Punjab Province. Ghazi's older brother, Abdul Aziz, led the prayers, which were frequently interrupted by pro-jihad chants. Aziz remains in government custody, but the authorities allowed him to travel to the village for the funeral.

Military forces are also bracing for new anti-government violence in Pakistan's remote tribal areas, where Ghazi had significant support.

In an Internet video posted Wednesday, the deputy leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network called for Muslims to take revenge against President Musharraf.

The Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri said the government's raid on the mosque can only be washed away by "repentance or blood."

At least 20 people have been killed in a series of suicide bomb attacks in the area since the standoff outside the Red Mosque began.

XS
SM
MD
LG