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Islamic parties to protest against US airstrike

A coalition of radical Islamic groups in Pakistan has planned new protests to denounce a purported US airstrike in a tribal village.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2006 16:33 IST

A coalition of radical Islamic groups in Pakistan planned new protests on Friday to denounce a purported US airstrike in a tribal village and call for the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf.

Demonstrations last weekend against the January 13 attack, which left 13 villagers dead as well as reportedly killing up at least four foreign militants, drew more than 10,000 to protests in the country's biggest cities.

More than 1,000 rallied again on Thursday. Friday's protests were scheduled in the eastern city of Lahore and the northwestern city of Peshawar, a conservative city near the Afghan border where the attack took place and the capital of the North West Frontier province.

Shahid Shamsi, a spokesman for the six-party religious alliance -- Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal or United Action Forum, said the group is also demanding the withdrawal from Pakistan of US troops assisting in relief efforts after an October 8 earthquake killed 87,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless.

Shamsi accused them of spying. "Our protests will continue until the American troops go back," he said.

Pakistani authorities have said that the January 13 attack in the village of Damadola, just northwest of Peshawar, killed at least four foreign militants, possibly including an Al-Qaeda explosives and chemical weapons expert and a relative of the terror network's No. 2 leader.

During Thursday's protest, more than 1,000 supporters of another Islamic group chanted "Death to America!" and "Jihad, Jihad!" as they marched through two crowded bazaars in Peshawar. They also burned effigies of US President George W Bush.

Shamsi criticised Musharraf for "keeping quiet" over the attack.

Radical Islamic groups oppose Musharraf for supporting Washington in the US-led war against terrorism, which ousted the Taliban militia from power in neighboring Afghanistan for harboring Al-Qaeda.

The religious coalition made stunning gains in parliamentary elections in 2002 on a platform opposing the United States and supporting the Taliban.

First Published: Jan 20, 2006 13:01 IST