The stand-off between Pakistani troops and militant clerics and students of Lal Masjid escalated on Wednesday as they exchanged heavy fire while over 800 students surrendered amid reports that security forces may storm the complex.
The authorities extended the deadline periodically for students to surrender as hardcore elements with suspected links to militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad continued to remain defiant and exchanged automatic weapons fire, a day after clashes left 21 dead and 150 injured.
Two hundred burqa clad girls were among those who surrendered and the number of militants in the mosque and a women's seminary was not known as armoured personnel carriers kept a tight vigil at Lal Masjid. Helicopter gun ships also circled overhead.
Curfew was imposed in the area surrounding the mosque and electricity to the complex cut in the night with authorities making repeated pleas to those inside the complex to surrender. President Pervez Musharraf has offered an Amnesty package to those who surrender.
Image: Pakistani army soldiers stand on top of an armoured personnel carrier stationed in front of the Parliament building during a curfew in Islamabad.
Photograph: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images
Also read: All about the Lal Masjid stand-off