Militants protest against Pakistan support for US

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of Islamic militants took to the streets of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, protesting at the commitment by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to offer Washington "full support" for a possible attack on neighboring Afghanistan.

"If our government gives air or ground space to America, we will declare a jihad against the government," said Hafez Hussein Ahmed Madani, a protest organiser.

"Afghanistan will be a graveyard of Americans if the USA attacks," another protester Jan Mohammed Habib said.

The crowd cheered and applauded as an effigy of the President Bush – wearing a coat with the words "Dog Bush" – went up in flames. The scene was repeated an hour or so later when a different group of militants burned another effigy ofthe President.

Protestersr chanted, "Friends of America are traitors," and a speaker blared, "The Pakistani government is a traitor against the people and against the faith."

"These protesters are wrong," said Pakistani student Hama Yan Khan, 21, as he watched the militants chant pro–Taliban slogans. "Musharraf's decision was very good because it defends Pakistan and gives our people safety."

But opposition to Gen. Musharraf's stance appears to be gaining ground in regions of Pakistan where Muslim fundamentalism has been on the rise for years.

Additional street protests were planned in Peshawar and other cities, and militants have called a nationwide striketomorrow to oppose any Pakistani–supported assault on Afghanistan.