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12 dead in Pakistan mosque shootout

  • Story Highlights
  • High tension between police and students at Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque
  • At least 12 killed in gunfire outside a radical mosque in Islamabad
  • Pakistani journalist killed in crossfire, several other journalists wounded
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf summoned his top officials to discuss a gunbattle Tuesday at an Islamabad mosque between government forces and radical Islamic students that left at least 12 dead, according to an interior ministry official.

Pakistani Islamists demonstrate in Quetta against the action on the Red Mosque in Islamabad Tuesday.

Tensions have been simmering between police and the students at the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, who are blamed for a string of recent kidnappings of civilians, Chinese nationals and Pakistani police.

As part of their clampdown on the mosque compound -- which includes several madrassas, or religious schools -- police set up a security perimeter around the mosque compound last week.

Tuesday's violence began when about 150 militant students attacked a police checkpoint close to the mosque. Police fired tear gas and the students fought back with sticks and guns.

They were joined by dozens of women from one of the madrassas attached to the Lal Masjid, who chanted in support of holy war.

When police responded, some of the students snatched their weapons and tried to kidnap several police, according to police.

The students then fired on Pakistani forces, killing at least two security personnel and wounding seven others, police said.

The students, some armed with Kalashnikovs and wearing gas masks, held positions behind sandbags in camps located around the mosque compound.

Pakistani forces returned fire, killing at least four students. A Pakistani journalist was killed in the crossfire, and several other journalists were wounded -- including a cameraman who is in critical condition.

The government has been investigating the activities of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, students who are demanding sharia, or Islamic law, be instituted in Islamabad.

Tuesday's violence spread to other parts of Islamabad, where the radical students burned more than a dozen government vehicles and set fire to a private school and the offices of Pakistan's environmental agency.

As a precaution, shopping markets in Islamabad were shut down. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

-- CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi in Islamabad contributed to this report

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