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Pro-Taliban Pakistanis seize airstrip

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Armed militias who have blocked a key northwest Pakistan highway for four days have taken over an airstrip and the gas stations in the town of Chilas, near the northeast border with Afghanistan, CNN learned Sunday.

Boulders guarded by armed members of two fundamentalist Muslim parties blocked the Karakoram Highway, Pakistan's main link with China and part of the ancient Silk Road.

The Pakistani militias are part of a larger group that has been making its way toward Afghanistan to join the Taliban.

Thousands of armed men left Pakistan for Afghanistan on Saturday to join Taliban forces amid a pro-Taliban procession in the Northwest Frontier province.

A local journalist who saw the scene in Bajor Agency told CNN that residents cheered the men and threw flower petals, chanted slogans and praised Osama bin Laden.

The men were armed with various weapons that included 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.

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.



 
 
 
 



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