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Pro-Taliban Pakistanis head to Afghanistan to fight

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Thousands of armed men left Pakistan for Afghanistan on Saturday to join Taliban forces amid a pro-Taliban procession in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier province, a local journalist told CNN.

The journalist, who saw the scene in Bajor Agency, said residents cheered the men, throwing flower petals, chanting slogans and praising Osama bin Laden.

The men were armed with various weapons, including rifles, rocket launchers, missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. They were led by a local religious leader, Sofi Mohammed, who said they intended to travel to Kandahar -- about 430 miles (670 kilometers) away -- and meet with the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

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Earlier Saturday, some 5,000 armed Pakistani tribesmen headed for the northwest border into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, CNN sources reported. It was not clear if those men took part in the Bajor Agency procession.

The men crossed from the Dir area in the Northwest Frontier, heading toward Kunar, near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

They were carrying weapons and supplies, including blankets and camping gear, the sources said.

Local law enforcement agencies prevented about 800 men in the same area from crossing into Afghanistan, and some were returning home, Pakistan officials said.

Pakistan has been the scene of sometimes violent demonstrations against the government's support of the U.S. campaign against the Taliban. The Afghan regime is harboring bin Laden, the suspected terrorist leader whom U.S. officials blame in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Earlier this week, police in Karachi fired tear gas at thousands of Islamic militants after they protested Pakistan's refusal to allow the bodies of Muslim fighters killed in Afghanistan across the border. The slain militants had traveled to Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight against the U.S. campaign.

The demonstrators burned at least one police shelter in Karachi and broke into the Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum, a site dedicated to Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, an eyewitness told CNN.


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