A chronology of Lal Masjid saga

July 11, 2007

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ISLAMABAD, July 10: Following is a chronology leading up to Tuesday’s raid of the Lal Masjid:

January 2007: Scores of female seminary students armed with canes occupy a children’s library in Islamabad, protesting government plans to demolish mosques and seminaries built without official permission.

March 27: In the start of a Taliban-style anti-vice campaign, female students abduct three women they accuse of running a brothel. They later seize two policemen. They are released after reportedly repenting.

April 6: The mosque sets up a Sharia court. The mosque’s senior cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, vows to launch thousands of suicide attacks if the government attempts to close him down.

April 9: The Sharia court hands down a religious edict against Pakistan Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar, accusing her of committing a sin, after she is shown in newspaper photographs embracing a parachuting instructor following a charity jump in France.

April 10: The government blocks the mosque’s illegal website and radio station.

May 19: Students associated with the mosque kidnap four policemen after the arrest of a dozen mosque supporters. The kidnapping of another two policemen follows. All are eventually freed.

June 23: Dozens of students kidnap nine people, including six Chinese women and a Chinese man, from an acupuncture clinic, claiming it is a brothel. All are freed following protests from Beijing, in what proves to be the last straw in the six-month confrontation.

July 3: Escalating tensions erupt into street battles around the mosque between security forces and militants. At least nine people die and some 150 are wounded.

July 4: Security forces lay siege to the mosque, later demanding an unconditional surrender and the release of alleged hostages held inside. Aziz is arrested sneaking out of the mosque dressed in a burqa. His brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi takes over as mosque chief.July 7: President Gen Pervez Musharraf says all militants will be killed if they don’t lay down arms.

July 10: After last-ditch negotiations fail, security forces storm the mosque. At least three soldiers and 40 militants are killed as the operation continues into the afternoon.—AP