Pakistan tribesmen vow raid revenge

Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen have pledged vengeance for an army air strike on a religious school that killed about 80 suspected militants four days earlier.

Pakistan says the dead were militants, not students of religion
Pakistan says the dead were militants, not students of religion

On Friday, effigies of George Bush, the US president, and Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, were paraded on mules through Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal region bordering Afghanistan, and beaten with sticks and shoes before being burnt.

About 10,000 tribalmen gathered in Khar, just 10km from the destroyed religious study centre, called Zia-ul-Koran (Light of the Quran), run by a pro-Taliban leader at the village of Chingai.

Demonstrations were expected elsewhere in the region and North West Frontier province, while Islamist parties sympathetic to the Taliban had planned protests in Islamabad after Friday prayers.

A mountainous region that is difficult to access, Bajur lies across from the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, where US troops are battling al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Along with the two semi-autonomous provinces North and South Waziristan, Bajur is regarded as a focus for support for Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader, and Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.

Cleric beheaded

In another incident, a tribal cleric accused of being a US spy in the Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan has been found beheaded, a security official in the tribal region said.

The body of Maulana Salahuddin, 45, was found on Friday on a road between North and South Waziristan.

Bajur is supportive of the Taliban and al-Qaeda

Bajur is supportive of the
Taliban and al-Qaeda

A note pinned to his body described him as an American spy, a security official said.

The body was sprayed with bullets after the beheading, he said.

Meanwhile, in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, a blast in the Continental Hotel slightly injured at least two people on Friday, police said.

The cause of the blast at the hotel was unknown, police said.

The hotel stands close to offices of the military spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Police said the blast occurred in a room, injuring the occupants.

A bomb disposal squad was investigating the scene.

Video footage

Musharraf says all those killed in the Bajur air strike were militants, and the Pakistan military has released video footage shot from a surveillance aircraft showing rows of men doing physical exercises an hour before the attack.

Protesters said the dead, mostly young men aged between 15 and 25, were students.

Islamist leaders and tribesmen say the strike was carried out by a US Predator drone aircraft flying from across the border in Afghanistan.

The allegation has been denied by both Pakistan and the US.

Previous attack

A CIA-operated drone aircraft carried out an attack last January in Bajur that killed about 18 people.

Some al-Qaeda operatives were believed to have been killed in that attack, but the main target, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was not there.

Al-Zawahiri had also visited the madrasa at Chingai in the past, but not recently, and no senior militant figures were killed in the air strike, Pakistani security officials said.

But they believed the young men at the school were being trained as suicide bombers to carry out attacks on Nato, US and Afghan forces across the border.

Source: News Agencies

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