Pakistan's interior ministry says the cleric leading resistance at a radical mosque in Islamabad was killed after troops stormed the compound.

A ministry spokesman, Javed Iqbal Cheema, says Abdul Rashid Ghazi was shot dead Tuesday in a gunbattle between militants and government troops in the basement of the Red Mosque.

A spokesman for the Pakistani military, Major General Waheed Arshad, says the army is clearing the complex room by room. He added that the operation is ongoing, and the military now controls most of the Red Mosque compound.

Pakistani security officials say fierce fighting at the compound has left at least 50 Islamic militants and eight soldiers dead.

Authorities estimate the military has detained about 70 militants and rescued more than 80 people from the complex, including women and children.

Ghazi's followers want to install strict Taleban-style Islamic law in the country. Negotiations for their surrender broke down before the military launched its assault.

Ghazi had said everyone with him in the mosque would rather die fighting than surrender to government forces. He had said he hoped his death would provoke an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.

The government says some militants in the mosque are linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

A U.S. State Department deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, Tuesday said Pakistani authorities had made a number of attempts to peacefully resolve the stand off.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.