Pakistani security forces have exchanged gunfire with hundreds of students holed up inside a radical mosque in central Islamabad. At least one government ranger is dead and both sides are reporting several people injured. VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand has more from the capital.

The sound of gunfire echoed for blocks Tuesday as fighting erupted outside the radical Lal Masjid or Red Mosque.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao says students from the mosque's madrassah, or religious school, provoked the confrontation.

He says police were using tear gas to break up a demonstration outside the mosque when several students opened fire, killing at least one officer.

Security forces have surrounded the mosque but officials say the government wants to avoid a major confrontation.

Clerics from Lal Masjid seek to impose strict Islamic law in the capital.

Student supporters have kidnapped several policemen and a number of alleged prostitutes in recent weeks.

As the fighting intensified outside the mosque Tuesday, witnesses say Lal Masjid's loudspeakers broadcast a call for suicide attacks.