Thousands protest Pak air strike

Prince Charles scraps visit to Peshawar

Khar, October 31

Thousands of gun-wielding Pakistani tribesmen chanting “Death to Bush” protested today against a deadly air raid on an Al Qaeda-linked religious school that killed 80 people.

The show of anger came ahead of rallies called by radical Islamic leaders, triggering security fears that forced Britain’s Prince Charles to cancel a key part of his visit to Pakistan.

Over 20,000 people chanted “Death to Bush” and “Death to Musharraf” in the troubled Bajaur tribal region.

The military said yesterday’s pre-dawn helicopter attack, the deadliest in Pakistan’s history, targeted a hardline Islamic school or madrasa that doubled as an Al Qaeda-linked camp training fighters for Afghanistan.

But radical Islamic clerics told the rally at Khar, the main town in rugged Bajaur, that the dead were all young students and accused the Pakistani government and its ally the US of murder, an AFP correspondent said.

They accused US forces of either ordering the strike on the madrasa or of actually carrying out the raid using Predator drones.

“It was the Americans who fired a missile on the madrasa and later Pakistani helicopters came to take the responsibility for the Americans’ act,” Islamic fundamentalist parliamentarian Haroon Rashid said in Khar.

Among those killed in Monday’s raid was Maulvi Liaqat, a local Taliban commander who ran the madrasa, security officials said.

Around four missiles were fired at the concrete-walled compound, reducing much of it to rubble.

Dozens of mangled bodies covered in sheets were laid out on makeshift beds for funeral prayers before being buried yesterday.

Pakistan’s biggest coalition of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), called protests in several cities including nearby Peshawar obliging Charles, the heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla to scrap a planned visit there.

The British High Commission said it had cancelled the trip on the Pakistani government’s advice.

Charles and Camilla instead visited the country’s first women’s university in the bustling city of Rawalpindi, and a nearby cultural site.

Pak army version

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan used intelligence provided by US-led forces in Afghanistan in a raid that killed 80 suspected militants, Pakistan’s army spokesman said on Tuesday. Major General Shaukat Sultan declined to say what “percentage” of help was provided by US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan for the attack on a religious school in the northwestern Bajur district, which locals said killed innocent students and teachers. He said American forces did not fire missiles. — AP

‘Many kids killed’

PESHAWAR: A survivor of the Pakistan army raid that killed 80 said from his hospital bed on Tuesday that the seminary destroyed in the attack was not used by terrorists, and that many children were among dead. “There was not militant training in the madrasa,” said Abu Bakar, 22, from Loi Sam, a Bajur tribal town 15 km from Chinghai village, where Monday’s attack took place. “We had come here to learn Allah’s religion,” he said, whose legs were broken by rubble that fell on him after the strike.— AP