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Pak parliamentary officer killed as blasts rock mosque complex

By NNN-PTI

Islamabad : A top paramilitary officer was killed and another injured in intense exchange of firing between Pakistani security forces and militants holed up in the besieged Lal Masjid, where a defiant cleric claimed that 200 girl students were among those who died in a wall collapse due to massive blasts triggered by Army.

Lt Col Haroon-ul-Islam, a commander of the Special Services Group (SSG) of paramilitary Rangers, was killed and Major Tariq injured in the heavy exchange of fire last night. Officials said the casualties occurred when security forces were conducting operations in heavy rain.

The SSG officer's death was the second suffered by the security forces so far. A paramilitary Rangers personnel was killed a week ago when militant students came out and tried to attack a Rangers' picket that sparked the tense stand-off, which entered the sixth day today.

Also, security forces reportedly apprehended six militants who came out in darkness and tried to escape. Officials also claimed to have apprehended Muhammad Asim, who headed the team of militants guarding the Deputy Administrator of the mosque Abdul, Rashid Ghazi, who was leading the resistance from the Lal Masjid. Asim was taken to an undisclosed place for questioning.

Quoting officials, local daily 'The News' said security forces fired tear gas and "another kind of gas shells to paralyse the nerves of militants holed up in the complex". They said it was done to provide an opportunity to those who want to escape from the comp lex, it said.

Meanwhile, huge explosions rocked the city last night which officials said were caused by detonation of dynamites to break the walls around the besieged complex to enable people to escape.