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Pakistani Official Demands Surrender of Gunmen at Mosque


A Pakistani official has demanded the surrender of gunmen inside a mosque where nine people were killed in clashes between religious students and security forces Tuesday.

Deputy Interior Minister Zafar Warraich said early Wednesday anyone who comes out armed from the Islamabad mosque will be shot.

He said a curfew has been imposed in the area. Pakistani officials say one soldier, a cameraman and four students were among those killed in the clashes Tuesday at the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque.

More than 80 others were wounded. Authorities say the fighting erupted when students from the mosque opened fire on security forces after the soldiers fired tear gas to break up a demonstration.

Clerics at the mosque are challenging the government with demands for Islamic Sharia law.

Students also set fire Tuesday to two nearby government buildings. During the fighting, a call for suicide bombers to get ready to attack was issued over the mosque's loudspeaker.

Authorities have been in a tense standoff for months with clerics and students at the mosque, but have been hesitant to take action for fear it could provoke suicide attacks.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a banned militant group with links to al-Qaida, also were in the mosque.

Mosque members recently kidnapped and briefly held police officers and alleged prostitutes as part of an effort to impose strict Islamic law in Pakistan.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and REUTERS.

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