Operation Sunrise, also known as the 'Operation Lal Masjid is the codename of the storming the Lal Masjid, Islamabad,Pakistan by commandos of the Special Services Group (SSG) during the siege laid on it by the extremists. At least 160 army commandos laid siege to it in what became the longest operation the SSG had ever executed.The mosque leaders, well known for their extremist leanings, sealed themselves off in the compound with dozens of armed male students in the presence of several women and children. After negotiations failed, the order was passed for the storming of the compound. Of the 33 special forces operators who stormed the mosque, 10 were fatally wounded. Operation commander Haroon Islam was killed by small arms fire while planting explosives a few days earlier. The Army claimed that 75 of the bodies were that of the militants. More than a dozen were unidentified. (4)

History of the Lal Masjid

The Lal Masjid (translates to Red Mosque in Urdu, a reference to it's red interior and walls) had often been linked with militancy in the past. Run by the brothers Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who had openly admitted to having ties with many extremists leaders including the likes of Osama Bin Ladin, the mosque has long been a source of consternation for Pakistani security agencies. Long known for its radicalism, it attracted Islamic hardline students from the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas of Pakistan, areas with strong support for Al Qaida and the Taliban.  A madrassa, or a religious school is within the mosque compound with a separate one for male students.Thousands of students, including very young children and young men studied at the seminaries. Along with religious education, English classes were also taught.

Ironically, the mosque was favoured by the elite of the government - including presidents, prime ministers and army chiefs.  The late military dictator and president Zia-ul-Haq was close to the former head of the mosque, Maulana Abdullah, whose speeches on jihad, or holy war enthralled him. This was during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when Pakistan was the conduit in the supply chain of resistance fighters, many of whom were Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Abdullah was indignant at his son Abdul Rashid Ghazi's moderate and fairly Westernised lifestyle. After obtaining a masters in history, Ghazi married into a moderate family, working in the education ministry and even UNESCO. But things took a turn for the worse in 1998 when Ghazi's father was assassinated in the mosque by a lone gunman. He joined the mosque and took over from his brother Abdul Aziz, to whom their father had handed the property to, and made him his deputy. After the September 2001 attacks on the United States, the Red Mosque and its seminary, Jamia Hafsa denied having any links to the leaders of Al Qaeda.

In 2004, an assassination attempt was made on Ghazi's life. Since then, he always had a Kalashnikov within arm's reach. In the aftermath of the London bombings, police who arrived at the mosque to investigate their connection were blocked by baton-wielding female students. 

Tensions increase

The Islamist student movement of the mosque became increasingly critical of the government and its policies. Seeking to impose an austere version of Islam and maintain public 'morality', the students intimidated shopkeepers who sold Western films, which they deemed 'obscene', abducted those believed to be in the flesh trade, and even kidnapped police. After an illegally-constructed mosque was destroyed, students of the seminaries launched an all-out campaign against the government. They prevented the authorities from reaching the site and then occupied the building of a nearby children's library. Seven Chinese workers working in a massage parlour were abducted by students. The final straw,however,came when the students engaged government forces and later set fire to an Interior Ministry building. On July 3rd, clashes killed 10 people including 4 militants, a paramilitary soldier and a cameraman, whose death was captured on camera.






http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/12/MNGOTQUTPG1.DTL


 

4. The News, July 13, 2007 

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