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'Operation Silence' continues to flush out militants

The operation is continuing as troops are checking all bunkers in the basement of the mosque, where most militants are holed up.

world Updated: Jul 11, 2007 12:39 IST
KJM Varma

Loud explosions were heard in the heart of the city on Wednesday as Pakistani troops continued their operation to flush out militants holed up in the Lal Masjid complex, a day after fierce gunbattles with ultras left radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi and 100 others dead.

Defence Spokesman Maj Gen Wahid Arshad told the media that the operation is continuing as troops are checking all the bunkers built in the basement of the mosque, where most of the militants are holed up and are offering stiff resistance.

Troops yesterday launched "Operation Silence" to flush out heavily-armed hardliners holding a large number of women and children as hostages. Eighty-eight militants and 12 commandos dead were killed in the fierce gunbattles between the two sides.

43-year-old Ghazi, the younger brother of the captured head of the Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz, was killed by the security forces in the basement after he refused to surrender.

There were reports that Ghazi had held women and children as human shields, some of whom were said to have been killed.
Officials said Ghazi was shot in the leg and told to surrender but he refused to do so, prompting commandos to carry out the attack. The toll has crossed 100 as the operation continued with well-armed militants engaging troops in pitched battles.