It appears that Pakistani forces are storming the breaches at Lal Masjid now — this just across the wire from Breitbart:
Pakistani security forces began storming an Islamic seminary within a mosque in Islamabad on Tuesday, where militant Islamists have holed themselves up.
“An operation has been launched to get the Red Mosque evacuated. Commandoes have entered the mosque,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Wahid Arshad told reporters amidst series of explosions at the mosque.
There are believed to be some 1,000 people, including women and children, inside the mosque, stirring concern about the possibility of mass casualties.
Twenty-four people have so far been killed in the weeklong standoff between the militant religious students and security forces.
Please keep the children inside in your thoughts and prayers, earlier today Ghazi said that “fifteen suicide vests” had been passed out, and there are nine known and dangerous terrorists inside the mosque.
Right now it’s about 6:30 in the morning on Tuesday in Islamabad.
Update: Bill Roggio following at The Fourth Rail as well.
Update from Metroblogging IMB crew
Operation started at 4.30 am, after a government’s press conference. Severe fighting going on since 4:45 am. Commandoes have entered the complex. More than 70 big explosions. 2 ellite force officers dead. 8 severely injured. The whole of Islamabad is rocking with mega explosions, and intense firing. More than 30 ambulances deployed and in action. According to the reports by Ghazi Abdul-ur-Rasheed his mother died during the assault. A significant number of dead bodies inside the complex. According to the military spokesman, the millitants are using rocket launchers, gernades, and heavy arms. Meanwhile when the operation started, 20 children were safely recovered. DG ISPR has reported that the operation will be completed in 3 hours, and currently militants are present in the basement of the complex. Some militants are showing resistance from the top of the complex. Clouds of heavy smoke rising from the complex. Islamabad has been sealed off from all directions so people comming to the capital from outside should take appropriate measures.
10th July 7:00 AM
A part of Lal masjid on fire!! Black smoke rising from the complex. Intense fighting going on, and severe resistance from the militants.
10th July 7:15 AM
Comandoes enter the basement!. The top of complex has been cleared. 10 big buses dispatched towards Lal Masjid. Intense shelling of tear gas and firing continues and rounds of automatic weapons can be heard from here. Ghazi Rasheed says he will fight till martyrdom. Security forces dead bodies being rushed to PIMS. 50 people arrested from the complex till now. Residents of G-6 advised not to leave their homes. 70 resistants killed or injured in the operation so far.
10th July 7:20 AM
3 special forces personal die. 20 militants casualties. 15 militants injured. Nerve gas used in the basement. Firing has reduced a somewhat probably due to casualities within the complex. 40% of the complex under security forces control. A significant portion of the complex was bobby trapped according to the army spokesman
10th July 7:30 AM
Firing has subsided a lot, which could probably mean that security forces have essentially taken over a major portion of the complex. Operation probably has moved into it’s final phases. Media persons not allowed near the quardent off site, and security personal have been oredered to shoot them on sight. Media people not allowed near the hospitals too. Scout helicopters flying over the complex.
The IMB crew has been doing a fine job all along during this crisis, I am leaving the wrap-up off here and hope you go to their site. Be nice and click on some ads while there.
UPDATE: Abdul Rasheed Ghazi
Arrested ! Initial reports from news and blogs stated that Abdul surrendered, however it appears he was either killed in the fight, or that he was shot after he surrendered in the ongoing crossfire. Investigations continue, was he shot by one of the terrorists, accidently by government crossfire?
More at Lawhawk’s
UPDATE: Fox news just interviewed a talking head retired general, who stated that Rasheed was killed trying to escape in a burqa. I think he was mixed up, didn’t have all the facts, and that Lawhawk or Roggio would have given Fox a better interview.
Update: Times of India reporting two SSG Rangers killed
More at Reuters Canada
UPDATE :: 20 Children have escaped as the firefight inside continues
Twenty children escaped from the compound of a radical mosque in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday after security forces launched an operation to clear it of militants, the military said.
“Twenty children have managed to escape during the fire. An intense engagement is going on with the militants,” said military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad.
UPDATE: From a comment on a Pakistan blog it appears that Ghazi’s mother, who was also inside, is deceased now, cause unknown.
UPDATE: from AP
A successions of explosions rolled across the city amid the sound of gunfire. Reporters saw more than 40 ambulances approaching the area along with trucks carrying extra soldiers.
The troops moved in a week after the outbreak of fighting between security forces and supporters of hardline clerics at the mosque, who had tried to impose Taliban-style rule in the capital through a six- month campaign of kidnappings and threats. At least 24 people had been killed through Monday.
UPDATE: Latest from Reuters Pakistan
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This day had to come, the question remaining is how many casualties? We know that 3 SSG personel are dead, and several wounded. The operation is called “Silence” for a reason. Musharraf knows the opposition against him, and he knows that photos of injured Taliban or Terrorists will only fire up the frontiers. He is wisely blocking all reporters and photographers from the area, as well as from all the hospitals in the area. The terrorists know all to well how to work agit-prop operations.
By making peace-deals with the tribals and the Taliban Musharraf made it inevitable that they would come to him. The handwriting was on the wall – with the uplift programs, the closing of refugee camps, the tight border policy, and the turning of tribals against them over time they were being squeezed. Now it’s time for the Musharraff to go back to the mountain, since all the peace accords and agreements have been broken. The next months in Pakistan should prove interesting.
In many ways AQ and the Taliban have become so well practiced that they are the agitprop masters the soviets only wish they could have been. Right now the All Party Conference has completed in London, and all of the opposition parties are back in Pakistan — they will politicize this, but that’s not the biggest worry. The worry is what other madness will the stand at the mosque inspire?
Let us hope that Ghazi is taken alive, which is likely for he is a lying coward like his brother. If he dies, that could be trouble.
Other than that, it will be interesting to see the catalogue of dead terrorists as there have been conflicting stories over which groups they are. They started out as “a Mehsud Commander”, morphed into HIJ, and some report they are other groups. By most Pak government accounts they are “high profile” and “more dangerous than Al Qaida or Taleban”. The latter statement leads me to believe that it is Harkut ul Jihad al Islam, which has tried several assassination attempts on Pak government figures the past two years. (Musharraf, Sherpao, Shaukat Aziz.)
Don’t think this is serious business for Pakistan? At the tail-end of the AP article you see that approximately 20,000 tribals met in Bajaur with a Taliban leader who exhorted them to revolt over the Lal Masjid incident.
Has been arrested, was reported as surrendered, but it now appears that he was killed in subsequent crossfire. This ends the saga — he was a lying rat who used innocent children as tools for a political agenda and land-grab.