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Pakistani Court Orders Militant Cleric Released

Pakistani soldiers stormed Red Mosque complex in 2007 after a standoff with militants
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the release on bail of Abdul Aziz, an Islamist cleric who has been held since a battle at the Red Mosque complex in 2007, a lawyer said.

The mosque had for years been a militant hub in the heart of the capital with links to Pakistani Taliban strongholds in the northwest of the country near the Afghan border.

More than 100 people were killed when commandos stormed the complex after a week-long standoff in July 2007, sparking a surge in militant attacks on the security forces that has intensified in recent months.

"He has been granted bail…. Charges have not been dropped, as yet," said Shaukat Siddiqui, a lawyer for Aziz.

Aziz, caught trying to slip out of the Red Mosque dressed in a woman's burqa during the standoff with security forces days before the commando assault, has been kept under house arrest on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Siddiqui said Aziz would be released after posting 200,000 rupees ($2,500) bail in an antiterrorism court.

There were 27 cases against him. Bail had been granted earlier in 25 of them and one had been dropped, Siddiqui said.

After troops took control of the complex they recovered weapons, including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 rifles, landmines, and hand grenades.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, called for revenge after the assault on the complex, which also housed a madrassah, or religious school, for girls and young women.