- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

CHARSADHA, Pakistan Fist-pumping protesters yesterday marked the first Muslim Sabbath since the onset of U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan, clashing with police as white-robed clerics urged crowds to prepare for a decade of "holy war" against the United States.
In the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, police fired shots into the air and canisters of tear gas into crowds of more than 20,000, who rampaged through the city burning vehicles and one Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
Two protesters were injured. At least 60 Afghans were arrested in the protests and are being deported to Afghanistan, officials said.
With a heavy police and army presence, protests in Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and other cities passed largely without incident, and supporters of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf took heart that the turnout was smaller than many had expected.
[In Kabul, in the early hours today, new explosions were reported as U.S.-led forces ended a short respite with renewed air strikes.
[Eight powerful explosions were heard and at least one bomb dropped on the airport, witnesses told Reuters news agency.
["From my house, I could see a bomb land on the airport, I saw a fireball, debris flying up into the sky and the initial big fire, then dimming," one witness said.]
Yesterday's brief pause in the U.S. campaign against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban was attributed to respect for a Muslim festival commemorating the mystical journey by the Prophet Muhammad to heaven, known as the Night Journey or the Ascent.
Still, the ferocity of anti-American hatred on display in Pakistan proved unnerving, with people scorning President Bush as an enemy of Islam and vowing to fight to the death against the United States.
"Bush said it was a 'crusade,' and we accept that. Yes, it is a crusade. It is a war between Muslims and non-Muslim," former lawmaker Gohar Shah told a crowd of thousands in the town of Charsadha, near the Afghan border in Pakistan's rugged Northwest Frontier province.
"It is not a question of one or two years. We are ready to fight for 10 years," Mr. Shah said to cheers from thousands of white-capped protesters who filled the downtown plaza on a sunny autumn afternoon.
The reference was clear. A day earlier, as U.S. bombs rained on targets in the Afghan capital of Kabul and other cities, Mr. Bush had warned Americans to expect a battle of one or two years. The decade referred to the Afghanistan's 1979-89 war to expel occupying Soviet troops.
"We are used to jihad. We fought the Russians for 10 years," said Ibrahim, a businessman attending the rally. "If America wants to wind up like the Russians, then come to Afghanistan. In the name of Islam, we are willing to destroy ourselves."
Yesterday's protests came after five days of bombing of military targets throughout Afghanistan in an effort to weaken Afghanistan's ruling Taliban government and pressure it to hand over Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 suicide airliner attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Yesterday, Taliban spokesmen said the American bombing had killed at least 200 civilians in a village near Jalalabad, but that could not be independently verified. The village is suspected of being a training camp for bin Laden militia.
In northern Afghanistan, rebel troops and Taliban soldiers were reported to be locked in fierce fighting near the northern city and key stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif. Mohajeddin Mehdi, an official in Tajikistan affiliated with the opposition's government-in-exile, said the opposition had seized strategic points to block Taliban supply routes.
The Taliban, for its part, said they had recaptured the Quadis district in the northern Badgis province, which has changed hands several times. The private Afghan Islamic Press agency reported the claim, citing the Taliban as saying they captured 50 opposition fighters and that several rebels died. Neither side's reports could be independently verified.
The U.S. bombing campaign has fueled unrest throughout the Muslim world, reflected yesterday in anti-American protests in the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and throughout the Middle East.
By the time the Pentagon announced a halt in bombings yesterday, night had already fallen on this side of the world and protesters had gone home.
The fervor of yesterday's protests reflected the key problem confronting the United States in its war on terrorism.
While it has won support from Pakistan's Gen. Musharraf and leaders of other Muslim nations, Mr. Bush's repeated assertions that the battle is against terrorism and not Islam has had little discernible effect here.
Banners with pictures of bin Laden and of Mr. Bush being driven into the ground by a boot symbolizing Islam rose above the crowd in Charsadha.
The crowds roared in agreement to repeated exhortations: "Are you ready for jihad?" "Are we with Osama?" "Long live the Taliban" and "Down with America."
When Western reporters wandered into the crowd, plainclothes policemen quickly hustled them up a darkened stairway to a balcony above the angry crowd.
"Our government is a slave of America," shouted Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's largest Muslim-based party. "If Musharraf steps aside, then America will be in our hands."
Leaders of major Muslim political parties called for a nationwide strike on Monday to continue the protest.
The government says militant Islamists represent only a small minority in the nation of 145 million and that most support the decision to side with the United States against the Taliban and bin Laden, who has waged his war against the West since being granted shelter in Afghanistan five years ago.
The government threatened to crack down against violent protests, and several of the nation's militant religious party leaders remained under house arrest.
"There are only a few extremist elements, who tried to disrupt law and order, but we have given instructions to the law enforcement agencies not to allow anybody to take law in their hands," Gen. Musharraf's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Quereshi, said in the capital of Islamabad.

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