Pakistani Islamists rally for Red Mosque anniversary
Hundreds of Islamists gathered outside Islamabad's Red Mosque on Friday and chanted slogans against President Pervez Musharraf to mark the anniversary of the bloody storming of the building.
Government forces laid siege to the hardline mosque on July 3, 2007 after clashes with Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants holed up inside, and stormed it one week later. More than 100 people were killed during the operation.
Carrying the mosque's signature black flags with crossed swords, around 700 protesters gathered after Friday prayers and shouted "Hang Musharraf, Musharraf is a murderer, America's friends are traitors", an AFP reporter said.
Local religious leaders vowed to lead a "revolution" in memory of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of the mosque's main leaders, who was killed in the July 10 raid on the mosque.
"We will continue the mission of Ghazi, who laid down his life for the glory of Islam and implementation of Islamic law in Pakistan," local cleric Amin Zeb told the crowd outside the mosque, which has since been repainted beige.
Riot police equipped with batons and shields cordoned off the area during the demonstration, which ended peacefully.
About 100 burqa-clad female students from an girls' religious school that was attached to the mosque and demolished after the operation played Islamist songs on tape recorders during the demonstration.
The female students became a symbol of the hardline mosque's defiance last year, and it was their kidnapping of several Chinese nationals allegedly involved in prostitution that sparked the deadly siege.