Lal Masjid to reopen after SC order
Pakistani authorities will on Wednesday reopen Islambad's Red Mosque on the orders of the Supreme Court, officials in Islamabad said. Lal Masjid was closed for three months in the wake of a blood-soaked army operation.
Government troops stormed the radical mosque on July 10 after besieging Al-Qaeda militants holed up inside the building and a neighbouring girls' Islamic school, leaving more than 100 people dead.
It reopened briefly on July 27 but closed within hours after protesters reoccupied it and then a suicide blast targeting policemen near the complex killed 14 people.
But the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government to open its doors again after accepting a petition by the wife of the mosque's captured former leader and other people.
"The mosque is reopening today on the court's orders. It will open at 1:30 pm (0830 GMT) for prayers," Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema told AFP.
The leader of a hardline Islamic student movement that had campaigned for the mosque to reopen said followers would come in large numbers on Wednesday to offer prayers.
"We hope that police do not interfere and try to bully us, we will remain peaceful," Asif Dilawar Mahmood, the chief of Tehreek Tuleba-o-Talibat (Movement of Male and Female Students) told AFP.
"We are thankful to the Supreme Court for ordering the reopening."
The raid on the mosque sparked a wave of revenge suicide bombings and other attacks by Islamic extremists in Pakistan that have left nearly 300 people dead.
In a video released last month Al-Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri warned that President Pervez Musharraf Musharraf would be "punished" over the killing of the mosque's deputy leader, rebel cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi.