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Anti-US anger mounts in Pakistan after airstrikes
By Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad
January 15, 2006

Leaders of Pakistan's opposition Islamic alliance were preparing on Sunday to launch a fresh campaign against president Pervez Musharraf's government, as anti-US anger mounted in the wake of US airstrikes on a remote village in the north.

On Sunday, there were demonstrations in several towns and cities across the country as protestors vented their anger at the US. In Karachi, the southern port city, at least 10 thousand supporters of islamic and mainstream parties joined hands in protest, in a rare expression of solidarity.

"America, stop killing our muslim brothers," they chanted.

The weekend attack, believed to have been carried out by a CIA-operated unmanned drone aircrafts on Friday, left at least 18 people dead including women and children. But Pakistani officials said Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command believed to have been targeted by the US, was not near the site of the strike.

"Innocent blood has been spilt. This would not go unanswered" shouted a protester at weekend in Bajaur, the remote mountainous region along the Afghan border, where Damadola, a small village was the target of the attack.

The attack has dealt a significant political setback to Gen Musharraf who has led his country's support to Washington's war on terror. It comes just ahead of Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz's visit to Washington, due to begin on January 18 – an opportunity expected to be used by Mr Aziz to woo new investments from US companies in the south Asian country.

On Saturday, Pakistan protested the attack in a rare act of official condemnation of the US. The two countries have closely worked together since Pakistan turned its back on Afghanistan's former Taliban regime following the New York terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and extended military and political support to the US cause against terror.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said: "As a result of this act there has been loss of innocent civilian lives which we condemn". Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the information minister told a news conference in Islamabad, the government wanted "to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to reoccur" in future.

A leader of Muttahida Majlis e Amal [MMA], who asked not to be named, said on Sunday that leaders of the alliance were likely to meet ahead of a parliamentary session in Islamabad on Tuesday "to discuss this very grave situation and decide a future course of action. We believe we can rally all opposition parties on a common platform. This is enough of Musharraf's support to the US".

The leader said the MMA and other parties could call for public protests on Friday - the muslim Sabbath.

Pakistan's tribal areas have been the centre of intense military activity since the US invaded Afghanistan following the New York terrorist attacks. At least 60,000 Pakistani troops are believed to be deployed in the region, mainly to block members of al Qaeda and the Taliban from fleeing US and Afghan troops pursuing them on the Afghan side of the border.

But western diplomats claim the tribal region which has remained semi autonomous since Pakistan was created in 1947 remains home to some of the most sought after militant leaders.

Mr Al Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor by training, has remained particularly elusive. The US has offered a reward of US$25m for information leading to his arrest – an amount equal to the reward offered for the capture of Osama bin Laden – leader of al Qaeda.

In March last year, reports of Mr Al Zawahiri being surrounded by Pakistani troops in a border region were subsequently found to be similarly incorrect.

On Sunday, Pakistani intelligence officials said Mr Al Zawahiri was invited for dinner to the site where the attack took place but never arrived.

A Pakistani official said; "Ayman Al Zawahiri appears to have survived. There is no evidence to suggest he was at this village at the time of the attack"
Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.

In Bush's sick world we can force democracy on a country if we kill enough of their children. Bush thinks it's working in Iraq, why not Iran and Pakistan. In the real world, Bush is creating the next generation of US enemies - enemies that will do whatever they can to disrupt our live (also called terrorism). If there is another attack on the US, remember, Bush caused it.