The weeklong siege against militant Islamists holed up in Islamabad’s Red Mosque ended Tuesday when security forces stormed it in a fierce battle that left more than 50 militants and eight soldiers dead. If those killed since street battles between security forces and militants began July 3 are included, the death toll tops 80.

Apparently, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s desire to show his determination to stem rising Islamic militancy in his country was behind his decision to let security forces storm the mosque compound, which includes a religious school.

Pakistan has been an ally of the United States since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But Mr. Musharraf has received criticism from the U.S. for not being cooperative enough in “the war on terror.” The raid on the mosque was a gamble for Mr. Musharraf, who is also facing political discontent from within his country. His hardline decision against the mosque could incite a series of retaliatory terrorist attacks by Islamic militants.

In March, Mr. Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who had taken the constitutional guarantee of judicial independence seriously. On May 12-13, about 40 people were killed in Karachi in clashes between progovernment and opposition people over Mr. Chaudhry’s suspension. The May incident and the mosque raid symbolize the difficult situation Mr. Musharraf finds himself in. Last Friday, during a trip to an area hit by a natural disaster, unknown suspects fired a rocket after his plane took off.

It was reported that more than 200 armed militants, including several with links to the al-Qaida network, were inside the Red Mosque. Students of its religious school had conducted an anti-vice campaign in recent months. For example, they had threatened CD shop owners and kidnapped seven Chinese who allegedly ran a brothel. Mr. Musharraf tolerated their actions. There is a report that China’s anger over the killing of three Chinese in Peshawar on Sunday changed his mind. Whatever motive may have been behind the president’s latest move, it does not improve the prospects for his political future.

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