Wednesday, July 11, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani commandos cleared the warrenlike Red Mosque complex of all its die-hard defenders today, after an assault that ended a bloody eight-day siege and left more than 80 dead, including a pro-Taliban cleric.

Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said the compound was still being combed for mines, booby traps and other weaponry.

The first phase of the operation is over. There are no more militants left inside, Gen. Arshad said in a telephone interview.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told reporters that no bodies of women and children had been found inside the sprawling complex and said the probability that such bodies would be found during the mopping up operation was low.

The major group of women was all together and came out all together, he said, referring to 27 women and three children who emerged from the mosque yesterday.

I think it’s already ended. Now it’s mopping up, he said. The operation is over. Everybody who was inside is out.

More than 50 militants and 10 soldiers were killed and 33 wounded in the final, 35-hour assault by the elite Special Services Group that began early yesterday, the army said.

The dead included the mosque’s pro-Taliban cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

Commandos went in after unsuccessful attempts to get the mosque’s militants to surrender to a weeklong siege mounted by the government after deadly street clashes July 3 with armed supporters at the complex in the heart of Pakistan’s capital.

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