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Anti-U.S. protests in Quetta, Kandahar

Quetta protests
The Pakistani city of Quetta has been the venue for several pro-Taliban demonstrations.  


QUETTA, Pakistan (CNN) -- Anti-U.S. demonstrators have rallied in Pakistan and Afghanistan in support of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

As nervousness swept across Afghanistan over the possibility of a U.S. retaliatory attack, more than 2,000 demonstrators in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and tens of thousands in Quetta, Pakistan, took to the streets.

About 2,500 demonstrators in Kandahar burned effigies of President Bush and exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah, who is working on building an interim government to replace the Taliban. U.S. flags were also burned.

Demonstrators said they are not willing to accept the former king, who they say has no relevance in Afghanistan. The 86-year-old king, deposed in 1973, is living in exile in Italy.

They paraded from the Ministry of Vice and Virtue to the Martyrs Square, where they listened to speeches by local people. Although no government officials spoke, the demonstration did have government backing. The turnout, while significant, was not massive in comparison to rallies held before September 11.

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Sources say the crowd turnout was lower than they have been for previous rallies, possibly because many people are afraid of a U.S. attack, have left town or do not want to come outside.

The Taliban regime appears to be making efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people, sources tell CNN. Travel restrictions imposed on Afghans by the Vice and Virtue Ministry and by the Defense Ministry have been lifted in some areas.

Meanwhile, some Afghan citizens have said they almost want the attacks to happen because they say the level of expectation that the retaliation could take place at any moment is almost unbearable.

Afghan citizens said the United States would suffer if it got involved in Afghanistan. They say Afghanistan would become a graveyard for U.S. soldiers.

Military support

In Quetta, roughly 10,000 protesters took part in what appeared to be one of the largest demonstrations in the city since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States and since Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, pledged his country's "unstinted" support against terrorism.

Protestors chanted "Death to America" in a demonstration led by the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party (JUI). The JUI has called for a fatwa, an Islamic religious edict, against U.S. troops and Pakistani troops as well, if U.S. troops are based in Pakistan.

The message was anti-government and anti-United States and was intended for an international audience as the procession snaked from the airport and past the hotel where reporters from around the world are based.

Pakistan will allow the U.S. the use of its airspace in a military campaign and will provide logistical, as well as intelligence, assistance if it should decide to launch a military strike against Afghanistan.

But the country has ruled out allowing U.S. troops to be based in Pakistan and also excluded the use of Pakistani troops in any offensive in Afghanistan.

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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