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Archive for Friday, May 16, 2008

Taliban leader vows revenge on US

May 16, 2008

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— A top Taliban leader vowed Thursday to target the U.S. after an alleged missile strike killed several people in northwest Pakistan, a threat that could undermine the new government's efforts to negotiate peace deals with militants.

Blasts destroyed a compound Wednesday in Damadola village, a militant stronghold in the Bajur tribal region near the Afghanistan border. A similar attack in 2006 reportedly missed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The governor of the turbulent North West Frontier Province condemned the incident as an "attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan" that would hamper the country's efforts against terrorism. He said the dead included an 8-year-old boy.

Residents said they saw a U.S. aircraft flying in the area before two explosions rocked the village. The U.S., which has not commented on the incident, is believed to operate unmanned drones out of Afghanistan.

Faqir Mohammed, a cleric and deputy leader of Pakistan's Taliban movement, vowed revenge after attending a funeral for seven men who were said to have been killed.

"America martyred our people, and the blood of our brothers will not go to waste," Mohammed said. "God willing, we will avenge it by targeting America."

Later Thursday, several thousand protesters attended rallies called by Islamist political parties in Damadola and Khar, Bajur's main town. Demonstrators chanted "Death to America" and slogans against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The alleged missile strike could embarrass Pakistan's new government, which is trying to pursue peace deals with militants. The negotiations have stirred alarm in the U.S., which long backed Musharraf's more forceful tactics. Western officials worry that such deals may simply give militants time to regroup and plan attacks in Afghanistan and the West.

Pakistani leaders Thursday disavowed any knowledge of the missile strike.

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