Cleric reports hundreds killed in mosque

July 8, 2007 at 7:21 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 8 (UPI) -- At least 335 students, mostly women, died when Pakistani forces bombed the wall of a mosque under seige by Islamists in Islamabad, a cleric claimed Sunday.

Abdul Rashid Ghazi's allegations could not be independently confirmed, the Indo Asian News Service said.

Rashid said 310 women and 25 men died inside Lal Masjid, known as the Red Mosque, overnight when Pakistani forces attempted to blow holes in the compound's walls.

The Pakistani army hoped the holes would allow students inside to escape, said a military statement.

A Pakistani colonel died Saturday night in the heaviest firing in the six-day seige, BBC News reported. The colonel was shot by students inside the mosque as his forces advanced on the wall, the BBC said.

In a statement Saturday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said the students had no option but to surrender.

As many as 1,800 students remained in the mosque Saturday, BBC said.

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