Foreign Militants in the Red Mosque
* Security forces find foreign passport, currency among Ghazi’s belongings
By Sharif Khan: Daily Times, July 14, 2007
ISLAMABAD: Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the deputy prayer leader of Lal Masjid, was killed when he was trying to escape through a breach in the wall of Jamia Hafsa with his three foreign guards, a well-placed intelligence source told Daily Times on Friday.
The source, asking not to be named, said that army commandoes spotted Ghazi and his three guards trying to escape from a breach in the wall created by the army to rescue the women and children held hostage in the Jamia Hafsa compound. Ghazi and his guards were heading towards the nullah behind the Jamia Hafsa madrassa.
“The commandoes chased Ghazi and his guards and the latter took refuge in a room near the breach in the wall. One of Ghazi’s guards, an Uzbek, fired on a commando who was trying to take a look inside the room. The militant’s bullet missed the commando, who retaliated, killing all the four men inside,” said the source.
It is learnt that the security forces also found a partially burnt passport of a neighbouring country during the combing operation of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid. The passport has become the focus of attention for the intelligence agencies since the neighbouring country has a history of targeting jihadi organizations, the source added.
The source said the foreign passport was found from Ghazi’s belongings and has been sent to an intelligence agency for further investigation. The presence of the foreign passport in the residence of the late madrassa leader had left senior intelligence officials wondering if secret agents of the “enemy state” had penetrated into jihadi organisations.
The security forces found that some parts of Ghazi’s residence had been burnt, suggesting Ghazi and his guards tried to burn their belongings before heading towards the nullah. The security forces also found a large number of partially burnt local and foreign currency in some boxes. One of the boxes contained undamaged local money amounting to Rs 1.5 million.
The security personnel also spotted partially burnt foreign passports, which supports the information on presence of foreign militants in the mosque complex, said the source.
Apparently negotiations between PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Ghazi for a peaceful solution to the standoff failed due to the issue of foreign militants. “Once all the issues were settled, Ghazi told Shujaat there were some ‘foreign friends’ who should also be given amnesty and safe passage with him. Ghazi repeated this demand thrice,” another source privy to the negotiations told Daily Times. He added that the entire conversation was recorded on the mobile phone used in the talks and the government had secured the evidence.
Daily Times was told that there were 15 foreigners in the Lal Masjid complex and all of them were expert snipers. A group of these snipers had killed Lt Col Haroonul Islam during the operation.