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Old 10-30-2006, 01:10 PM   #1
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80 killed at al Queda linked school...

GOT UM COACH...:laughing6

Pakistan army kills up to 80 at Qaeda-linked school

KHAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani army helicopters killed around 80 suspected militants on Monday in a dawn attack on a religious school run by a pro-Taliban commander wanted for harboring al Qaeda fighters, a military spokesman said.

The army said the religious school or madrasa in Chenagai, 10 km (six miles) north of Khar, the main town in the Bajaur tribal region bordering Afghanistan, was being used as a militant training camp.

The strike killed almost everyone present in the madrasa, although at least three wounded were taken to hospital in Khar.

"The compound has been destroyed," Major-General Shaukat Sultan told Reuters.

"According to our local sources, up to 80 deaths have been confirmed," he said. No ground troops were sent in to mop up.

Residents said they had seen three or four army helicopters flying over Chenagai at around 5 a.m..

No prominent militant was believed to be in the compound when it was attacked, Sultan said. Security officials said one of those killed was Maulana Liaqatullah, the pro-Taliban commander who ran the madrasa.

Sultan said there were no women or children present.

Some villagers said there were young children among those killed, but Maulana Faqir Mohammad, a militant commander at the target site, told Reuters Television that the dead were aged between 15 and 25.

Bodies covered with white sheets lay in rows as Mohammad addressed hundreds of gunmen gathered by the ruined madrasa, declaring his support for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar.

"May Allah protect Sheikh Osama. May Allah protect Mullah Omar," the long-haired, bearded militant leader said.


Thousands of tribesmen rallied in Khar chanting "Down with America," "Down with Bush" and "Down with Musharraf".

The leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's most influential Islamist party, condemned the attack as "barbaric" and claimed it was carried out by U.S.-led forces from across the border.

"This alien attack... is tantamount to a declaration of war on Pakistan," Qazi Hussain Ahmed told a news conference, while a senior minister from his party resigned in protest from the provincial government in North West Frontier Province.

Last January, Liaqatullah was believed to have had contacts with al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahri that led to a CIA drone aircraft missile attack on Damadola village in Bajaur.

Zawahri was not present at the time but some al Qaeda operatives were killed.

Pakistan's lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border has been a haven for Islamist militants for decades. Many al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas took refuge there after fleeing the U.S.-led hunt for them in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.

Monday's attack came two days after 3,000 militants held a rally near Khar, chanting support for bin Laden and Omar.

Talks between tribal elders and militants to reach a peace deal along the lines of the one struck in North Waziristan last month appeared to have failed, local clerics said.

A mountainous region that is difficult to access, Bajaur lies opposite Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, where U.S. troops are leading the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Bajaur is the most north-easterly of seven semi-autonomous tribal regions that make up Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and are home to around 3.5 million people.

The Pakistan military has close to two divisions, some 30,000 men, in North and South Waziristan, the two other tribal agencies where support for the Taliban and al Qaeda has been rampant.

The army is deployed on the border in Bajaur, but internal security has been left to locally recruited police and militia.
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