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Pakistani police fire tear gas on protesters

Jacobabad
Pakistan police try to stop anti-U.S. protesters in Jacobabad.  


KARACHI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Police fired tear gas on thousands of Islamic militants Wednesday after they protested Pakistan's refusal to allow the bodies of mujahedeen fighters killed in Afghanistan across the border.

The crowd of more than 2,500 people from various Islamic groups had gathered for funeral prayers for about two dozen Pakistani militants killed by a bomb Tuesday in Afghanistan. The militants had traveled to Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight against the U.S.-led bombing campaign.

After learning Pakistani authorities had refused to allow the bodies over the border, the crowd grew violent. They 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.

Police fired tear gas and made many arrests, but the exact number was unclear.

Later in the day -- despite the order barring the bodies from being brought to Pakistan -- CNN was told that some of the bodies were being transported to Islamabad.

Eight of the 22 bodies were on their way to Islamabad overland by truck. Six other bodies were tentatively scheduled to come to Islamabad and then go to Karachi.

Officially, the government has made no statement about its policy

Jacobabad protests over air base

In Jacobabad, baton-wielding Pakistani police clashed with anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalist demonstrators Tuesday.

Pakistani police arrested members of the Jamaat-e-Islami party demonstrating in a bid to seize a Pakistani air base and expel U.S. military personnel there.

Islamabad recently allowed the U.S. military to use the Jacobabad air base for logistical purposes. An estimated 600 U.S. service personnel are believed to be stationed there.

Police said all 70 Jamaat-e-Islami members in the demonstration were arrested.

Pakistan police
Pakistan police are out in force to curb demonstrations n Jacobabad.  

Dozens of other Islamic activists were arrested by midday Tuesday.

But Jamaat-e-Islami sources said 250 of their members took part in the protest and 25 were arrested.

The street battles between police and demonstrators broke out as protesters tried to reach the air base.

Some 200 militant Muslims managed to reach Jacobabad on Tuesday morning despite blockades and sandbag bunkers erected around the area.

Streets deserted as security tightens

Security has been high since October 14 when a demonstration by Islamic militants turned violent.

Police have set up at least 200 new check posts at all the entry points in Jacobabad, witnesses told Reuters news agency.

Most shops were closed and many streets deserted, except for heavily armed patrols of police, army and paramilitary troops.

Police said they have been forced to increase security after a weekend speech by Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed that suggested Pakistani troops defect against President Pervez Musharraf.

Police then detained Ahmed on Monday when he tried to board a plane for the protests in Jacobabad.

The protests come as Musharraf tries to balance support for the United States with strong Muslim anti-American sentiment at home.

The Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, both fundamentalist Islamic parties opposed to the U.S.-led airstrikes, have said in recent days that police have arrested about 1,000 of their members.

But police in Jacobabad said they only have arrested 84 Jamaat-e-Islami members in connection with a separate rally Sunday.

Musharraf says he has support

In a bid to ease tension, Musharraf has told CNN he hopes the U.S.-led strikes end before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Musharraf repeatedly has said most Pakistanis stand by him in his support of the campaign.

During U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent visit to Pakistan, Musharraf said he believes the U.S.-led "military campaign in Afghanistan should be short and targeted."

But he reaffirmed Pakistan's support for the anti-terror coalition however long its takes, saying his nation would stand beside the United States for "as long as it took to achieve the desired result."

-- CNN Producer Allison Flexner contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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