- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Pakistani border guards stopped several thousand Pakistani volunteers armed with machine guns and rocket launchers as they attempted to cross into Afghanistan to fight against the United States.
Radical Pakistani cleric Sufi Mohammed led his followers in a convoy of hundreds of pickup trucks that wound its way beneath mountain peaks to a little-used border crossing north of Peshawar.
"Jihad had become an obligation for each and every Muslim after the United States attack on Afghanistan," Mr. Mohammed told reporters before joining the convoy.
Wearing black turbans and carrying their guns and winter robes, they chanted "death to America" and "long live Osama" as they approached the border.
Pakistani authorities sent reinforcements to the border to continue blocking the ragtag militia. If prevented from entering Afghanistan en masse, the men have the option of breaking up into small groups and infiltrating through unmanned mountain border passes.
Mr. Mohammed leads a radical Islamic party that advocates imposing Taliban-style rules on Pakistan, such as ones banning music and movies. Yesterday's standoff underscored the dilemma facing Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a military ruler who continues to back the U.S.-led war on terrorism in a nation where the airs strikes on Afghanistan have becoming increasingly unpopular.
Gen. Musharraf has struggled to contain anti-American militancy following the Oct. 7 onset of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, especially in areas near the Afghan border. Islamist leaders have been placed under house arrest and prevented from traveling.
Gen. Musharraf voiced concern yesterday over the duration of the U.S. air strikes.
"There is concern, not only in the Islamic world but the entire world at the civilian casualties and the miseries that civilians are being put through," Gen. Mr. Musharraf said.
The volunteers, virtually all from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, carried assault rifles on their shoulders and rode with machine guns, rocket launchers and other weapons, many of which had been kept in their homes since the days of crossing the border to fight Soviet troops.
Pakistanis in the area speak the same language and share ethnic links with much of Afghanistan. Hundreds of tribes straddle the border, where people continue to pass freely back and forth as they have for centuries.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have turned down other offers by Pakistani tribal leaders to send fighters, telling them to wait until U.S. ground troops arrive.
Though the military threat from yesterday's event appeared minimal, it was the latest in a spate of bad news for the U.S. effort to force the Taliban from power and eliminate bin Laden, who is believed responsible for the terrorist attacks on the United States.
On Friday, the Taliban captured and executed former anti-Soviet fighter Abdul Haq, who was attempting to persuade Afghan tribal leaders to turn against the Taliban.
Mr. Haq's family said the Taliban had agreed to return the body, and he was to be buried today in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Yesterday, the Taliban claimed it had captured and executed 15 soldiers, including five commanders from the opposition Northern Alliance. Alliance officials denied anyone was missing.
Alliance forces have been unable to advance on the capital of Kabul or the strategic northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif despite U.S. air strikes on front-line Taliban troops.
U.S. jets continued to pound Taliban targets yesterday, hammering hills on Kabul's northern edge toward the airport. They also struck front-line targets about 30 miles northeast of Kabul, where Taliban troops face off against the Northern Alliance. Witnesses in Kabul and with the Northern Alliance called yesterday's bombing the most intense of the war, so far.
Britain's Sky News television reported one of the U.S. missiles went awry and struck a village behind anti-Taliban opposition lines. A family of 10 was missing and 20 persons, all but one civilians, were injured, Sky News reported.
Back in Pakistan, militants blocked the main highway into western China a portion of the fabled Silk Road with boulders and they planted land mines along its shoulders, the Associated Press reported.
Traffic along the 750-mile Karakoram Highway, a major trade link between Pakistan and China, has all but stopped since the Sept. 11 attacks.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers began a three-day visit to refugee camps near the Pakistan border yesterday. U.N. officials are warning of catastrophic hunger and disease if Western aid is unable to get through this winter.

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