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Christianne Amanpour: Pakistan keeping eye on protests

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christianne Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent Christianne Amanpour  

(CNN) -- In Pakistan on Sunday, at least one person was reported killed as police clashed with marchers during pro-Taliban demonstrations in Jacobabad. The marchers were heading to an air base where they believe the United States has sent planes and troops. Pakistani officials have acknowledged U.S. troops and planes are in the country but refused to confirm or deny that they are at Jacobabad.

CNN anchor Ralitsa Vassileva spoke with CNN Chief International Correspondent Christianne Amanpour about the situation from her vantage point in Islamabad, Pakistan.

VASSILEVA: It has been another day of anti-American protests in Pakistan. For the latest, let's go to Christianne Amanpour.

AMANPOUR: Well, Ralitsa, let's just talk about what's being seen inside Afghanistan. We know that the United States admitted missing a military target in Kabul yesterday and hitting a civilian neighborhood. Analysts here think perhaps that village outside Jalalabad may have been a miss-hit. As you know there are terrorist training camps around Jalalabad -- notably, Khowst and others.

As for what's going on here…with the increasing number of airstrikes in now its first full week, there have been, obviously, demonstrations here in Pakistan. In one, protesters were trying to get into the city of Jacobabad, where there are reports of U.S. troops and helicopters for search-and-rescue missions. They have been permitted to use bases in Pakistan by the Pakistani authorities.

According to sources, there may be about 3,500 protesters on the streets and they were doing pitched battle with Pakistani police and other security officials who are trying to prevent them from getting inside the city and anywhere near the air base. We have had reports from medical and police sources. They say at least one person is confirmed dead, but others, particularly in the JUI (Jamiat-ul Ulema-i-Islam) Islamic party, say there may be as many as six dead. And they report quite a few injuries.

Just to say, Jacobabad is southern central Pakistan and is a stronghold of the JUI party, which is one of the hard-line Islamic parties…and there have been calls for protests there, and this one is still ongoing (Sunday), according to our sources.

VASSILEVA: How worried is the government about this protest?

AMANPOUR: The government has been keeping a very close eye on all the protests that have been going on around Pakistan for the last month since this crisis erupted. So far, it feels it has a good hold on them. (The government) has made very clear in statements and press conferences that it plans to use all force necessary to keep these under control.

It is, if you like, the "usual suspects" who are out on the street. These are Islamic religious parties, the young people who are in the madrassah, the religious schools. The government points out, and so do most of the people in Pakistan, that these protests are, for the most part, not attended by the majority of Pakistani civilians, but by the Islamic hard-liners and religious students, who are instigating and calling for these protests. They make up a very small minority of the total Pakistani population.

VASSILEVA: Christianne Amanpour from Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you.


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