Bloody Standoff Continues Outside Pakistan's Red Mosque

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has reportedly authorized a final assault on armed militants barricaded inside Islamabad's Red Mosque. Officials say hundreds of women and children are being held hostage by a group of "hard-core terrorists" with possible links to al Qaida. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports at least 24 people have been killed in the seven-day stand off.

Scores of ambulances have taken up positions around the mosque as military loudspeakers broadcast what officials say is "their last and final warning."

More than 1,000 people have surrendered since the bloody standoff broke out last Tuesday but officials say hundreds more remain inside.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao says least 50 or 60 well-armed militants have locked women and children inside the compound.

"The militants have made all the ladies and children there hostage," he said.

Sherpao says gunmen have already shot at the legs of three girls as they made their escape.

Authorities say several internationally wanted terrorists are inside the mosque.

The mosque's pro-Taleban cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi says he and his supporters would rather die than surrender.