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Pakistani security forces take control of Lal Masjid

By Xinhua

Islamabad : Pakistani security forces have taken control of the Lal Masjid in the capital, a government official confirmed Friday even as 11 people, including seven policemen, were confirmed killed and many injured in an explosion near the mosque.

The police have moved people out of the neighbourhood of the mosque and arrested a few people, a government official said, adding that the situation was in control of security forces.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Chaudhry Muhamamd Ali said the government had reopened the mosque for Friday prayers at the request of local residents. He added that the authorities would decide whether to re-impose curfew.

People including some religious students went to the Lal Masjid, which was reopened for prayers Friday after renovation. They clashed with security forces deployed around the mosque.

The powerful blast took place at a market near the mosque when hundreds of people gathered around Lal Masjid in protest against the recent government operation there.

Some religious activists who came to Lal Masjid Friday turned furious and clashed with police. Some people pelted stones at policemen and a number of people remained inside the mosque, painting the mosque red again. The government had painted the mosque white earlier this week.

Security forces deployed around the mosque fired tear gas at the protesters.People refused to offer prayers under the leadership of a new government-appointed cleric at the mosque, the News Network International (NNI) was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

The mosque was reopened to the public three weeks after violent clashes erupted there between security forces and Islamic militants July 3, which climaxed with the July 10-11 commando assault that left over 100 people dead.