Pakistani ruling party demands US apology
Updated: 2006-01-17 08:46
Pakistan's ruling party on Monday demanded an apology for an alleged CIA
airstrike that killed at least 17 people, but the country's prime minister said
his trip to the United States this week would go ahead as planned.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q on Monday
condemned the alleged U.S. airstrike on a village near the Afghan border, which
intelligence officials have said targeted al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman
But Aziz said he was still scheduled to leave Tuesday for the United States,
where he said he would talk about security issues but also meet business leaders
to encourage foreign investment.
The leader called Friday's airstrike on a village near the Afghan border
"very regrettable" but said, "I don't think that takes away from the fact that
Pakistan needs investment."
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, center,
gestures during a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, Jan.
The Muslim League-Q party later issued a statement demanding an official
apology from the United States.
Islamic groups, meanwhile, vowed to step up anti-American protests.
Al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, was invited to an Islamic
dinner in the village but did not show up, two Pakistani officials told The
Al-Zawahri sent some aides to the dinner instead and investigators were
trying to determine whether they had been in any of the three houses destroyed
in the missile strike, one of the officials said Sunday.
In Washington, a U.S counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the information's sensitivity, said it is not yet known if
al-Zawahri was killed in Friday's attack.
The official said the compound that was hit has been visited in the past by
significant terrorist figures. "There were strong indications that was happening
again," the official said.
With media reports out of Pakistan indicating that at least four foreigners
were killed, the official said it appears that some damage was done, even if
al-Zawahri was not there. "This place had a history," the official said.
Islamic groups held nationwide protests Sunday as anger mounted over the
attack that Pakistan said killed innocent civilians.
"There will be more ... bigger protests," Shahid Shamsi, a spokesman for the
anti-American religious coalition that organized the rallies, said Monday.
Protesters believe the airstrike was ordered by the CIA and launched by U.S.
forces pursuing Taliban and al-Qaida militants in neighboring Afghanistan, and
Shamsi said the war on terror should not extend across borders without
"Pakistani civilians, including children, were killed," Shamsi said.
"Principles cannot be broken in the name of (fighting) terrorism."
In the first comments about the attack from a top U.S. official, Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that serious action was necessary against
"These are not people who can be dealt with lightly," Rice said.
Many in this nation of 150 million people oppose the government's
participation in the U.S.-led war against international terrorist groups, and
there is increasing frustration over a recent series of suspected U.S. attacks
along the frontier aimed at militants.
"They should try to work to improve their image," Information Minister Sheikh
Rashid Ahmed said Monday of U.S. activities in the region.
A senior army official told The Associated Press on Sunday that "foreigners"
were reported in the area around the village of Damadola, four miles from the
Afghanistan border, but he said there was no information al-Zawahri was among
A number of al-Qaida and Taliban combatants, including al-Zawahri and bin
Laden, are believed to have taken refuge in the rugged mountains along on the