Shots fired at plane carrying Musharraf

SHOTS were fired at an aircraft carrying Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, as it took off from a military base yesterday, in an apparent assassination attempt.

The attack came as the army continued to lay siege to a radical mosque in Islamabad, adding to the sense of crisis in the country.

It was not clear whether the shooting was linked to the stand-off at the Red Mosque, where two students were killed in fresh fighting, bringing the death toll to 21. However, it underlined concern at the threat from Islamic militants to Pakistan's stability.

Compounding the gloom, police said a suicide attacker rode a bicycle bomb into a military convoy in the northwest, killing four soldiers.

Mr Musharraf was flying from the Chaklala air base in Rawalpindi yesterday morning when shots rang out from directly under the aircraft's flight-path.

Clerics at the Red Mosque have been defying the government with an increasingly violent campaign to impose Taleban-style rule on the city.

More than 1,200 people, mainly students from the mosque's two Islamic schools, have fled the complex, but officials say up to 100 armed militants and an unknown number of students remain inside.

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