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73 bodies recovered from Lal Masjid

Troops take control of the mosque in the heart of Pakistan capital after fierce fighting against heavily armed militants.

world Updated: Jul 12, 2007 11:00 IST

Pakistani security forces during combing operation have recovered 73 bodies from Lal Masjid complex that was stormed on Tuesday to flush out radical militants, the military said.

The remains have been passed on to civil administration for identification, military spokesman Maj Gen Waheed Arshad told reporters late on Wednesday.

He said 10 commandos were also killed and 33 were injured in a major operation of one and a half days against militants in the Lal Masjid.

Troops took control of the mosque in the heart of Pakistan capital on Wednesday afternoon, after fierce fighting against heavily armed militants.

The slain militants were followers of two radical cleric brothers who ran the mosque complex and were demanding implementation of Islamic law (sharia) in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said here Wednesday that military action, codenamed Operation Silence, against militants inside the Lal Masjid mosque had ended.

He told a group of foreign reporters in the prime minister's house that the casualties from the operation were less than expected.

He said that no bodies of women or children had been found in the mosque complex so far.

Aziz also said that journalists would be invited to visit the mosque after its mop-up, which would likely be over Thursday.

He said the last-minute talks between a group of religious leaders and the Lal Masjid administration broke down early morning July 10 because deputy chief of the mosque Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi asked for safe passage for his "foreign friends".

"The government made it clear that every one will have to go through the law and if identified as militants the law would take its course," he said.

The major operation against the mosque was launched immediately after the talks collapsed.