ISLAMABAD, July 13: The government on Friday admitted that some innocent women and children were killed in the eight-day bloody operation in the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa complex.

“In the final assault some 75 people were killed in the complex and I think 50 to 60 were militants and the rest were women and children,” Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told reporters after a press conference by Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

The secretary said: “It is believed that some women and children holed up in the mosque lost their lives in the military operation against militants.”

President Pervez Musharraf had also said in his address to the nation on Thursday that some women and children had died in the fierce clashes that turned the heart of the capital into a battleground.

Mr Sherpao said curfew would be lifted from the G-6 sector on Saturday, but the area around Lal Masjid would remain off-limits to the general public. “It will remain under the custody of security forces.”

Many families living in G-6 have moved to other neighbourhoods in the capital.

Mr Sherpao said President Musharraf had directed the authorities to brief the media and the parents of Lal Masjid students about the operation.

The government has decided to display at the Sports Comp-lex lists bearing the names of the dead, the injured, the detained and those who had been set free.

In reply to a question, Mr Sherpao said the bodies of five foreign militants had been identified. “But there must be more bodies of foreign militants.”

The minister said 10 out of the 75 people who died in the operation had been identified. They include the son of Maulana Abdul Aziz. Three bodies have been handed over to their families.

Aftab Sherpao said 102 people had died in the operation. The breakdown is: 10 army officials, a Rangers official and 91 civilians.

He said 75 bodies had been interred after the completion of formalities — fingerprinting, photographs and DNA tests. “They have been buried in conformity with Islamic rites.” To a query about allegations that there was a tunnel in the Lal Masjid complex, Mr Sherpao said: “It was an assumption.”

He said 248 people had been injured in the operation. Twenty-seven of them were still in the PIMS hospital.


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