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Pakistan's Red Mosque is reopened

July 27, 2007|From Reuters

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Officials reopened the Red Mosque for prayers Thursday, two weeks after it was battered by fierce clashes between security forces and Islamist militants that left more than 100 people dead.

Known as Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, for its red bricks, the complex will emerge from the renovation painted cream and white.

The mosque's walls, peppered with bullet holes, have been repaired, but a battle-scarred women's madrasa, or Islamic seminary, was razed because it was structurally unsafe, according to the government.

Big cranes were being used to remove rubble, and tents were erected in the mosque courtyard for midday prayers today.

"We hope that such tragic incidents do not recur in our country," Ejaz ul-Haq, Pakistan's minister for religious affairs, told reporters after attending the first prayers in the mosque since the assault.

The Red Mosque, built in the 1960s, had turned into a headquarters of Islamic radicals during the military rule of Haq's father, Gen. Zia ul-Haq, in the 1980s, when Muslim fighters from all over the world flocked to Pakistan to fight the Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.

It made headlines this year when people linked to the complex launched an aggressive campaign to impose Taliban-style religious culture in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

They kidnapped women they accused of involvement in prostitution, abducted police, attacked music shops and seized a government library.

After the mosque assault, President Pervez Musharraf, an important ally of the United States in fighting terrorism, vowed not to allow mosques or madrasas like the Red Mosque and its school to be used to spread militancy.

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