Taliban avenging Lal Masjid assault: cleric

May 4th, 2009 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 4 (IANS) The resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan’s restive northwest is to avenge the assault on the Lal Masjid here two years ago, says the chief cleric of the the mosque.
Most of the students of the madrassa attached to the Lal Masjid belonged to Swat, Buner and Dir areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and were now extracting their revenge, Dawn Monday quoted Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was released last month after spending almost two years in jail, as saying.

“I had warned the then government not to go for the military operation on the mosque otherwise the situation would get out of control and I will not be responsible for the reaction,” he said.

“Most of my students belonged to Swat, Buner, Dir and some nearby areas and they are reacting and taking revenge of the blood of their relatives and friends,” Aziz added.

“Now they are not under my control and whatever they are doing in Swat and Buner is their own decision,” he maintained when asked why he had not asked his students to stay away from the militants.

Aziz claimed that hundreds of people, including women and children, were killed in the July 2007 Lal Masjid operation that also claimed the lives of 10 security personnel.

Then president Pervez Musharraf says that 94 people, all of them militants, were killed in the operation. Not a single woman or child was killed in the assault.

Dawn noted that Aziz, who had 26 cases pending against him the wake of the Lal Masjid operation, had been released on bail simultaneously with President Asif Ali Zardari approving the controversial Swat peace accord.

The cases against the cleric were registered after he was arrested trying to escape, disguised as a burqa-clad woman, shortly before military commandos stormed the Lal Masjid to end the standoff with his armed pupils.

Under the NWFP accord, Sharia laws would be imposed in Swat, Buner, Dir and four other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division in return for the militants laying down their arms.

Instead, the Taliban moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The military operation in Dir began April 26 and spread to Buner Tuesday. Over 150 militants have so far been killed in the”action.

“Meanwhile, the intolerant behaviour of Lal Masjid students and display of arms are again back in the heart of the federal capital,” Dawn said.

“It is believed that Aziz was released under a ‘deal’ as he vowed not to seek any action against those who, according to him, were responsible for Lal Masjid operation. The cleric claimed his release was not part of any deal with the government,” the newspaper added.

The cleric also said he did not support suicide bombings and had only threatened the government by saying: “If any operation is conducted at Lal Masjid, suicide attacks could take place throughout the country.”

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