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Pakistan: Thousands Demonstrate Against US-Led Air Strikes

In Pakistan, thousands of activists from an Islamic party have peacefully demonstrated against U.S.-led air strikes in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S.-led forces are attacking targets in Afghanistan to flush out Osama bin Laden, named by the U.S. as the prime suspect in terrorist attacks, and members of his al-Qaida group hiding in the country. The ruling Taleban movement is also under attack for protecting Osama bin Laden. This has angered pro-Taleban Islamic parties in neighboring Pakistan, which are holding almost daily protest rallies across the country.

Up to 8,000 activists of Pakistan's largest religious party, Jamaat-I-Islami, gathered in the center of Peshawar after Friday prayers. They were condemning the U.S.-led air strikes and making demands to declare holy war against the United States. The demonstrators were waving portraits of Osama bin Laden and screaming death to America.

Addressing the rally, the party leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said the U.S. is using terrorism as an excuse to target Islam. Mr. Hussain said the "brutal and unjust" U.S. polices have increased its enemies, particularly in the Muslim world. He also condemned Pakistan president, General Pervez Musharraf, for providing airspace and air bases to facilitate the U.S. military campagin.

One demonstrator, Pervez Khan, warned the United States against sending its troops into Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden. He said such a move will only prolong the war and will encourage thousands of volunteers to join the ranks of the Taleban in the "holy war" against the United States.

Friday's rally took place under tight security.

The United States accuses Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida group of carrying out last month's terror attacks on New York and Washington that killed more than 6,000 people.