Demand for inquiry after 80 die in attack on madrassa

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The Independent Online

Human Rights Watch has called for an independent investigation into a missile strike on a madrassa in Pakistan in which at least 80 people died. The charity's call came amid continuing protests in Pakistan yesterday as the controversy over the attack refused to die down for President Pervez Musharraf.

A pro-Taliban tribal elder threatened at a massive rally on Tuesday to send suicide bombers to target Pakistani security forces in retaliation. Protests continued yesterday in Peshawar.

President Musharraf said the site had been watched for "six or seven days" and denied any of the dead were civilians. "They were militants doing military training using weapons," he said. "We knew exactly who they are, what they are doing. Anyone who is saying that these were innocent students is telling lies."

But there have been consistent claims from local people that children as young as seven were among the dead. And a journalist from Pakistan's The Post, who was nearby at the time of the attack, reported seeing children's shoes amid the wreckage, and distraught mothers rushing to the scene.

At the rally, in the tribal agency of Bajaur, Inayat-ur-Rehman was cheered when he told the crowd, including 20,000 armed tribesmen, a "squad of suicide bombers" was ready "soon" to target Pakistani security forces.

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