Thousands of Islamic hard-liners on Friday protested a U.S. missile strike that targeted al-Qaida leaders in a Pakistani village, chanting their support for holy war and burning effigies of U.S. President George W. Bush. An opposition Islamic coalition organized the largest rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where several thousand chanted "Death to America" and "Jihad (holy war) is our way." Smaller demonstrations were staged in Lahore and the volatile border town of Wana. There was no violence.
"Are you ready for jihad against America?" Dost Mohammed, a coalition party leader, asked the gathering in Peshawar. Hundreds of bearded protesters, most wearing white prayer caps, put their hands up. Hundreds of police, carrying tear gas launchers and submachine guns, looked on. Protesters beat an effigy of the U.S. president with sticks, then set it alight.
Speakers railed against last Friday's attack in a border village that killed 13 civilians and possibly several top al-Qaida operatives, among them an explosives and chemical weapons expert and a relative of the terror network's No. 2 leader.
The rallies, the latest in a series of protests, were organized by a six-party religious alliance Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Forum, which strongly opposes Pakistan's support of the U.S.-led war on terror.
At Wana in the South Waziristan tribal region, scene of bloody counterrorism operations by Pakistan's military, about 1,000 people marched through the town, where a local cleric branded America as "a strong enemy of Muslims." "America has challenged the honor of Muslims and it will face the consequences," Maulana Abdul Aziz said. Shahid Shamsi, a coalition spokesman, said protesters also demanded the withdrawal from Pakistan of U.S. troops assisting in earthquake relief efforts in northern Pakistan. He accused the American forces of spying.
Thousands of lawyers staged separate protests in various cities to denounce the airstrike and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said Abdur Rahman Ansari, deputy chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, the country's main association of lawyers.
About 100 lawyers protested in front of the Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Musharraf," Ansari said. "It seems the country has no sovereignty ... The rulers have become like slaves," he said, adding that "Musharraf did not open his mouth to condemn the attack", reports the AP. N.U.