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Protester killed in Pakistan riots

g and compass

Guardian Unlimited

Protester killed in Pakistan riots

Staff and agencies
Monday October 8, 2001

One person was killed and 26 injured today as thousands of Pakistani supporters of the Taliban - enraged by last night's strikes on Afghanistan - burned buildings, battled police and demanded holy war against America.

The outbreak of violence, mainly restricted to two volatile cities on the Afghan-Pakistan border, came as Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, insisted his support of the US-led coalition reflected the will of the people.

The fatality and injuries took place in the south-western city of Quetta, where authorities fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air to repel 4,000 agitated demonstrators who torched five movie theaters, damaged a bank and burned the police station.

At least one building at the UN Children's Fund compound near Quetta's airport was set on fire this afternoon, UN officials said. Another was attacked and looted by one of the roving groups of protesters ranging around Quetta, Unicef staff said.

In several major Pakistani cities, protesters gathered in the streets and shouted "Death to America" and "Bush is a terrorist." They held up placards supporting Osama bin Laden and declaring "Musharraf is a dog."

Security has been tightened at airports, ports, railway stations, power stations and government offices, and riot police have taken to the streets to keep order.

In Karachi, pro-Taliban protesters blocked streets leading to the main business centre and angry crowds burnt tyres and threw stones at passing vehicles. Armoured personnel carriers with mounted machine guns were parked opposite the US consulate in Karachi.

Today Gen Musharraf tried to reassure the country that American and British forces were not planning a sustained war against the Taliban.

He said: "I've got definite assurances that this operation will be short. It ought to be targeted and it should not have collateral damage."

He added: "We were asked to provide intelligence cooperation, use of our airspace and logistical support, and having considered the request we promised to accept these requirements and that is what we are providing now."

He said he had told the US president, George Bush, and the prime minister, Tony Blair, that Pakistan did not want to see the Taliban's most prominent opponents, the Northern Alliance, "draw mileage out of this action."

"We tried to bring moderation into the Taliban government, we made all possible efforts to extradite Osama bin Laden, we made all possible efforts to free the eight foreigners being tried in Afghanistan," he said.

He also said that the operation should not be perceived as a war against Afghanistan or the people of Afghanistan.

"It's an action against terrorists, terrorism and their sanctuaries and their supporters," he told the country.

Hours before the attacks, Gen Musharraf reshuffled two pro-Taliban generals out of positions of power, in an attempt to bolster support within his military. This weekend, he extended his own term as head of the army for an indefinite period.

One of the more hardline Islamists within the military, Lieutenant General Mohammed Aziz Khan, was removed from the powerful position of corps commander and given the largely ceremonial job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Lt Gen Khan played a key role in the October 1999 military coup that ousted the elected government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and installed Gen Musharraf as Pakistan's military ruler.

Gen Musharraf also appointed Lt Gen Mohammed Yousuf as vice chief of staff of the army, passing over Lt Gen Muzaffar Usmani, the deputy chief of staff, who is considered an Islamic hardliner. With the appointment of Lt Gen Yousuf, his position now becomes redundant.

Gen Musharraf said he had been contemplating the changes "for a number of months."

"This is a normal military activity which has gone on," he said at a news conference today. "It has no relationship with events which are taking place, absolutely."

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