Published on Saturday, January 14, 2006 by Agence France Presse
Thousands of Protesters Tear-Gassed After US Airstrike Deaths in Pakistan
Pakistani police tear-gassed tribesmen who burned down a US-funded aid agency office after the deaths of 18 villagers in an airstrike targeting Al-Qaeda's number two, witnesses said.
An estimated 5,000 people had gathered at a stadium near Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal zone, close to the village of Damadola where Friday's attack happened, an AFP reporter said on Saturday.
Some demonstrators set fire to the offices of Associated Development Construction, a non-governmental organisation funded by the US Agency for International Development, an official at the aid group said.
"They have attacked our office in reaction to the deaths on Friday and put it on fire, it is badly damaged," site engineer Fazal Maibood told AFP.
The mob had also stolen hundreds of bags of cement, and up to 20 tons of steel construction material were damaged by the fire, he added.
Hundreds of tribal policemen had been deployed in Khar and other nearby towns to keep order, witnesses said.
Police later fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob after the crowd headed towards a music and video cassette market, while security forces fired two shots in the air, the AFP reporter said.
Security men were also seen arresting young tribesmen and bundling them into the backs of vans.
Pakistani officials said Saturday that they were investigating whether Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, was killed in what a US intelligence official described as an attack by a US Predator drone.
Earlier Haroon Rasheed, a legislator from Pakistan's fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party, condemned the airstrike as a "slap on the face of the country's sovereignty" as the crowd chanted anti-US slogans, witnesses said.
"It is shameful that innocent people of Pakistan are being killed by a foreign country with total impunity towards the state of Pakistan," he told the protesters.
The crowd chanted slogans including, "A friend of the Americans is a traitor" and "We will launch jihad against the aggressor".
Residents said they had heard missiles being fired from aircraft, adding that there were women and children among the dead and that there were no foreigners in the village at the time.
"Those killed were all innocent tribesmen, there were women and children among the dead," Rasheed said. "There was no Arab and no foreigners."
© Copyright 2006 AFP