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Pakistan's President to Address Nation in Wake of Mosque Siege


Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is to address the nation Thursday as al-Qaida issues calls to Pakistani Muslims to revolt against the government for its raid against militants in Islamabad's Red Mosque. Security officials say they are prepared for any possible backlash a day after government forces ended an eight-day siege which left 73 militants, nine soldiers and radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi dead. From Islamabad, VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand has more.

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

The Egyptian born Ayman al-Zawahri said the government's raid on Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, can only be washed away by "repentance or blood."

Zawahri is thought to be hiding out in Pakistan's remote frontier tribal areas where Lal Masjid's pro-taleban clerics had many supporters.

Pakistan's State Minister of Information Tariq Azim says the government is bracing for a possible militant backlash.

"There will be some areas, like the border areas with Afghanistan in the frontier, we expect there will be some response," he said.

President Musharraf ordered the raid on the Red Mosque Tuesday after talks to end a week long crisis failed. Radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi and dozens of armed militant supporters took over the mosque and held hostages, calling for strict Taleban-style Islamic law in Pakistan.

Military officials say they had encountered stiffer resistance than expected but had cleared the mosque by Wednesday and were searching for mines and booby traps.

The United States praised Mr. Musharraf for what officials called a responsible decision to use force.

The Bush administration considers Mr. Musharraf a strong ally in the war against terror. Pakistan sided with the United States in 2001 when it began its global war on terrorism in the wake of al-Qaida terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The first military action was against Taleban leaders in Afghanistan for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

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