Roggio wrote last night that he’d presumably been captured since he was last heard telling a reporter over the phone that Pakistani commandos were at the door to his room and were coming in. He’d insisted all along that he’d rather meet Allah than surrender. You got your wish, sucka:
Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the cleric who led a standoff by militants at Islamabad’s Red Mosque, was killed in the crossfire after Pakistani troops stormed the complex to end a weeklong siege, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Ghazi died today along with 12 militants in the basement of the mosque in the Pakistani capital, the spokesman, Javed Iqbal Cheema, said in a phone interview without elaborating.
Read the Guardian’s piece about him from March; that’s all the obituary he needs. Up until almost the last minute, Musharraf was ready to grant him and his wacko cleric brother, Abdul Aziz Ghazi a.k.a. Burqa Boy, safe passage back to their home village where they’d live under some specie of house arrest — the same treatment given, ironically, to A.Q. Khan, who’s done more to encourage jihadist nuclear proliferation than any man alive. It was only Ghazi’s own recalcitrance and stupidity that queered the deal. Here’s how far backwards Musharraf bent over to please him:
The delegation [of government negotiators] was led by Chaudhry Shujat Hussain, who is the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, the ruling party. It included 12 clerics led by Mufti Rafi Usmani, the highest-ranking cleric of Pakistan. It also included Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pakistan’s best-known humanitarian figure, and Sumaira Malik, the minister for women’s development.
Musharraf had earlier promised there’d be no negotiations at all. It’s frankly amazing that he had the stones to order the final assault.
Incidentally, after ten-odd hours of fighting, the Mosque is still only 80% secure. Pockets of jihadis with hostages are scattered about the complex. According to the AP, the army’s requested 400 funeral shrouds, although earlier reports based on information from Abdul Aziz Ghazi himself is that 800 or so people were still inside, as many as 300 of them unwillingly. At least 8 Pakistani soldiers and 50 jihadis are already dead.
The two questions now: What becomes of the Red Mosque and Abdul Aziz Ghazi, and just who are we going to find among the dead jihadis piling up inside? Follow the link to Roggio for some hints about that.
Update: What a scene.
Army spokesman General Waheed Arshad said: “Militants are taking positions in almost every room, they’re fighting from room-to-room, they have positions in the basement.”…
A witness said those inside the compound were under “massive bombing and gunfire. This is indiscriminate killing … There are dead bodies everywhere”…
Sky News producer Chiade O’Shea, in Islamabad, said militants planted booby-traps, as they retreated through the compound.
She added troops were using dynamite to blast their way into some of the rooms where defenders had fortified doors.
Update: It wouldn’t be very Christian of me to snicker at this. Good thing I’m an atheist.
An army official said Ghazi had received bullet wounds and when he was told to surrender, he gave no reply. Commandos then fired another volley of bullets and found Ghazi dead, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.
Update: He had his faults. But hey, who doesn’t?
When I was based in Pakistan for the “Daily Telegraph” in 2002, I met Ghazi several times and spoke to him on the phone quite frequently. As radical Islamists go, he was affable, pleasant and engaging…
Ghazi was also quite open about his admiration for Osama bin Laden, who he claimed to have met in Afghanistan before the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. “He is a very good Muslim”, Ghazi would say of the al-Qa’eda leader. Terrorism, he would swiftly add, was contrary to the peaceful nature of Islam.
Warming to his theme, Ghazi would say that any good Muslim who took up arms should not only refrain from harming civilians but also avoid “blowing the leaves from the trees”.
I would occasionally point out to Ghazi the obvious contradictions in his view of the world. How could a man of peace support bin Laden? How could he call for the violent overthrow of Musharraf while claiming to be in favour of democracy?
“But bin Laden is not a terrorist,” he would reply.
Ghazi was convinced that bin Laden was innocent of responsibility for 9/11. I never managed to pin him down on who he thought was responsible for the attacks.