- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A radical cleric whose mosque sought to impose strict Islamic morality on the Pakistani capital was killed today as troops seized control of the sprawling compound, a government spokesman said.

Commandos stormed the Red Mosque before dawn, and the army said about 50 militants and eight soldiers were killed in today’s fighting.

The cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who vowed to die rather than surrender, was killed during the attack, said Javed Iqbal Cheema, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

“He has died,” Mr. Cheema said.

Two security officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said Sheik Ghazi’s body was found in the basement.

Twelve hours later, the army said that the complex was 80 percent cleared of militants but that it was still trying to root out well-armed defenders the government accuses of holding a number of hostages. A local relief agency said the army asked for 400 white funeral shrouds.

The extremists had been using the mosque as a base to send out radicalized students to enforce their version of Islamic morality, including abducting purported prostitutes and trying to “re-educate” them at the mosque.