Pakistanis condemn US airstrike

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pakistani tribesmen numbering in the thousands protested and some set fire to the office of a U.S. related agency as the people and government of Pakistan for the second consecutive day on Sunday expressed their anger over U.S. attacks on Pakistani civilians along the frontier.

Many major cities in Pakistan were affected by the protests. In the largest city of Karachi, the crowd was estimated at 10,000, with chants of "Death to America" and "Stop bombing against innocent people." Riot police were deployed, but there were no reports of violence.

In a nationally broadcasted speech on Sunday by President Pervez Musharraf , he made no reference to the Friday air strike. "If we keep sheltering foreign terrorists here ... our future will not be good. Remember what I say," he said.

Pakistan's Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, said the attack was "highly condemnable" and that his government wanted "to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to reoccur."

Liaqat Baluch, a lawmaker from Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, said "We demand that Pervez Musharraf resign and American troops vacate all parts of Pakistan and go out of Afghanistan and Iraq." Sahibzada Haroon ur Rashid, a lawmaker from a hardline Islamic party, called the attack "open terrorism."

Protests opposing the government's participation in the U.S.-led war on terror, and the recent series of U.S. attacks along the frontier that killed civilians were held nationwide. Shahid Shamsi, a spokesman for the anti-American religious coalition that organized the rallies announced more and bigger protests in the days to come. He said "Pakistani civilians, including children, were killed," and explained that "principles cannot be broken in the name of (fighting) terrorism."

Unnamed sources in the United States indicate that the missile strikes were intended to assassinate specific Al-Queda members.

The Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of the ruling Muslim League (Q) party demanded an apology from the United States on Monday. He also said his scheduled trip to the United States will proceed as planned. He will leave Tuesday for talks there on security issues, and meet with business leaders to garner foreign investment.