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Hardliners release Chinese hostages

Hardliners release nine people including six Chinese women about 20 hrs after they were abducted in a raid on a massage centre.

world Updated: Jun 23, 2007 21:00 IST

Hardline religious students from a mosque in Islamabad on Saturday released nine people including six Chinese women around 20 hours after they were kidnapped in an overnight raid on a massage centre.

"We are releasing these people after the government assured us that all such massage centres will be closed which bring men and women together," the administrator of the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi told reporters.

"We cannot allow any foreigner to violate Pakistani laws," he said in reference to a law banning prostitution.

The release of the six Chinese women, one man and two Pakistanis came after police and political representatives held several rounds of talks with the students who are running a campaign against what they call "immoral activities".

"These people were running prostitution business in the massage centre," the administration of the mosque said in a statement after the raid.

"We do not intend to harm them and our sole objective is to warn them so that they will abandon their illegal trade," the statement said.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Lou Zhaohui remained in constant contact with Pakistani authorities to ensure the safe release of the Chinese. He also spoke to the Chinese captives on telephone.

Islamabad began experiencing growing militancy in February when female students of the Red Mosque occupied a nearby children's library and demanded the enforcement of Islamic law in the country.

The militants raided an alleged brothel in March and held three women captive for several days in the mosque, followed by the kidnapping of half a dozen police officials.

All the hostages were later exchanged for students in police custody.

Warnings have also been issued to the owners of audio and video shops to stop selling "un-Islamic" goods and women have been ordered not to drive.

The government has so far avoided a security operation targeting the mosque's radical clerics, who have warned that such action would trigger suicide attacks across the country.