Thousands rally against U.S. in Pakistan
Second week of angry protests in wake of deadly American airstrike

Updated: 9:49 a.m. ET Jan. 22, 2006

INAYAT QALA, Pakistan - Thousands of angry Pakistanis protested Sunday against a U.S. airstrike that killed civilians, chanting "Long live Osama bin Laden!" as anti-American rallies in the country entered their second week.

About 5,000 demonstrators assembled on a dry riverbed in a mountain market town near the site of the Jan. 13 attack. Shouting pro-bin Laden, anti-American slogans, they burned effigies of U.S. President George W. Bush.

The rally was the latest in a series of protests over the missile strike on the village of Damadola, near the border, which was believed to have targeted but missed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Pakistani officials believe the strike killed four other top al-Qaida operatives, but also killed at least 13 civilians, including women and children.

The assault has sparked friction between Islamabad and Washington -- and widespread outrage in the Islamic nation of 150 million.

Thousands have taken to the streets in the past week at several rallies in Pakistan's biggest cities.

The attack was believed launched by a predator drone based in neighboring Afghanistan, where the United States has about 20,000 troops.

Pakistan does not allow U.S. forces to pursue militants across the border, or to launch strikes without permission.

Pakistan warns U.S.
On Saturday, Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf told the United States it cannot repeat such attacks, while Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri called the assault "counterproductive" given the "prevailing public sentiment."

Musharraf told visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns that it "must not be repeated," a Foreign Ministry official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to policy.

The comments were Musharraf's first publicized remarks on the attack, as his government tried to soothe mounting disapproval of his backing of the U.S.-led war on terror.

"While reaffirming Pakistan's commitment to counterterrorism, the foreign minister underlined the need for the two countries to work in a manner that precludes recent incidents like Bajur," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday night, referring to the region where Damadola is located.

Organizers of Sunday's protest called the attack a U.S. conspiracy.

"America is the biggest terrorist in the world," said Maulana Mohammed Sadiq, a lawmaker and senior figure in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, a member of the coalition of religious groups backing the rallies.

"America bombed innocent people inside their homes," he said.

Sadiq demanded an apology from the United States and denounced Musharraf.

"As a president he has failed to protect the people and as chief of the army staff he has failed to protect the frontiers," Sadiq said.

More protests for Monday
Pakistan's opposition Islamic alliance said it would launch more protests Monday, including a march from the capital, Islamabad, to the radical hotbed of Peshawar and then on to Damadola.

Shahid Shamsi, a spokesman for the opposition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Forum, said Musharraf's comments Saturday came "too late."

"He made the statement under the pressure that has been building up in the country," Shamsi said.

Pakistan officials say the strike killed four or five al-Qaida operatives, possibly including Egyptian master bomb maker Midhat Mursi, a man with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

On Sunday, Pakistani authorities arrested an unidentified relative of a man suspected of hiding the bodies of four suspected al-Qaida operatives killed on Jan. 13, said a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to policy.

Authorities said the suspect, arrested in Damadola, was related to Faqir Mohammed, a pro-Taliban cleric who intelligence officials believe was responsible for burying the bodies.

"We are investigating his links" to the extremists targeted in the airstrike, the official said, adding that authorities were also seeking Mohammed and another cleric believed to have helped hide the bodies.

Hundreds of al-Qaida and Taliban militants, including bin Laden and al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in the rugged mountains along the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistan authorities suspect al-Qaida operatives gathered at a dinner last week in Damadola to plan attacks for early this year in Afghanistan and Pakistan, another intelligence official said.

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