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Protests in Pakistan as Taleban Claim Civilian Casualties

There were scattered protests across Pakistan on Friday against the government's policy of supporting the U.S.-led effort to strike at terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The protests took place as Taleban authorities claimed more than 100 civilians have been killed by U.S. air strikes in a village in eastern Afghanistan.

Protests in the port city of Karachi turned violent as demonstrators burned cars and a fast-food restaurant, but a heavy security presence across the country kept other protests peaceful.

Islamic political parties that support the Taleban had called for demonstrations following Friday prayers to protest the U.S.-led strikes against terrorist and military-related targets in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands turned out in the western city of Quetta, home to a large Afghan refugee population, but elsewhere crowds were sparse.

The protests took place as Taleban officials in Islamabad escorted foreign journalists to the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. Taleban officials say more than 100 civilians were killed by a U.S. air strike on a village close to the city late Wednesday.

U-S officials say Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida group have long used the area around Jalalabad as a base for their operations. The casualty reports have so far not been independently confirmed. However the issue of civilian casualties in Afghanistan was raised Friday at a briefing by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan, who responded to reporters' questions.

"There should be clear targets, and it should be as the United States and other allies have said and the rest of the world's leaders said, it should be targeted to hunt down and punish those who were involved in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, to destroy their networks," said Mr. Khan. "But it is not a campaign, it is not an attack, it is not a fight against Afghanistan or the Afghan people."

Mr. Khan also said Pakistan had cautioned the Taleban leadership about the consequences of their not following U.S. requests and U.N. security council resolutions to surrender Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaida organization to international authorities.

The Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman says the Taleban still have a chance to comply with those international demands but Pakistan has no plans to act as an intermediary between the Taleban and the rest of the world.