Pakistani troops attempted to flush out holdouts entrenched inside a women's religious school after raiding Islamabad's Red Mosque in fierce fighting Tuesday that left about 50 militants and eight soldiers dead, the army said.
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Commandos stormed the mosque compound before dawn, and more than eight hours later were still trying to root out the well-armed defenders said to be holding about 150 hostages.
Officials said at least 20 women had emerged from the complex as well as 27 children.
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 67 people have been killed since July 3.
The vigilante anti-vice campaign, led by hardline clerics with alleged links to outlawed militant groups, has proved an embarrassment to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S.-ally in its war on terror, and underlined his administration's failure to control extremist religious schools.