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January 16, 2006

American rocket strike in Pakistan draws fire

On Friday, January 13th an unmanned Predator drone fired a number of Hellfire rockets into a house in Damadola village, in the Bajaur region near the Afghan border. The target was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of Al Qaeda and, since Osama bin Laden ceased issuing statements last year, the public face of the extremist movement. The CIA was working off of intelligence indicating that Zawahiri would be having dinner at the house. This information proved inaccurate, and no major Al Qaeda figure has been identified among the 18 dead, which include women and children, although some reports suggest that up to 11 may have been lower-ranking Islamic militants.

Pakistan has reacted with shock and anger. In the border provinces, protests sprung up the day after the attack, spreading to major Pakistani cities - Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar - by Monday. In the Western press, the Guardian has published a fairly comprehensive overview of the attacks and the reaction. The largest crowds assembled in Karachi, where 10,000 people marched shouting slogans against the US and Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. DAWN, a Pakistani newspaper, gives approximate turnout at protests across the country.

While the largest crowds were in Karachi, the most strident were in Peshawar, the main city of the fiercely Islamic and anti-American North-West Frontier Province. The local Frontier Post reports that those rallies were organized by an Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami. Party leaders pledged themselves to Jihad against the US, advocated the partition of the US into 52 successor states (on the model of the former Soviet Union), and bemoaned the fact that Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons has failed to deter American strikes inside the country.

Posted January 16, 2006 03:58 PM

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