| An armed student escorts a hostage in Lal Masjid, Islamabad, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Islamabad, June 23 (AP): Radical Islamic students freed nine people, including three Chinese women, hours after kidnapping them today from a massage parlour in Pakistan’s capital, officials said.
The abductions were the latest act in a freelance anti-vice campaign by seminary students and teachers associated with the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque that has embarrassed the government of President Pervez Musharraf and raised concerns about rising extremism in Pakistan.
Dozens of Islamic students seized the nine persons from a massage parlour in an upscale neighbourhood of Islamabad, police official Mohammed Naeem said.
They were released after about 14 hours, said Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of two brothers who run the mosque.
Ghazi said the abductees were “spreading obscenity” and “running a brothel in the cover of a massage parlour”.
Six foreign women were taken, including three Chinese. One Chinese man and two Pakistani men were also among those kidnapped. Ghazi didn’t disclose the nationalities of the three other women.
Earlier, the interior ministry said the abductions were a “shocking and unlawful act”.
Mohammed Ali, the deputy chief of Islamabad’s administration, said authorities would take “appropriate action” against those responsible. He didn’t elaborate.
He confirmed the nine people were released after negotiations were held with Ghazi.
At loggerheads with authorities over a land dispute, clerics from the mosque in January sent female seminary students to occupy a municipal children’s library.
They raised the stakes further by kidnapping a Pakistani woman they accused of running a brothel and holding her for three days.
Last month, they seized seven policemen to press for the release of students detained by authorities for threatening the owners of music stores. The officers were released after authorities drafted thousands of policemen into the capital.
Officials say Ghazi’s supporters are armed and that cracking down on the mosque could provoke a bloodbath.