Agence France Presse – 2006-01-27 23:41:11
(January 23, 2005) — Legislators in Islamist-ruled northwest Pakistan have demanded the expulsion of the US ambassador following a CIA air strike that killed 18 civilians.
Police separately stopped a convoy of around 1,000 opposition lawmakers and their hardline supporters heading to the remote village bordering Afghanistan where the January 13 attack happened.
In a unanimous resolution, the assembly of North West Frontier Province called on the government to seek a UN Security Council condemnation of the incident and demand an apology from Washington.
“We demand the federal government declare US ambassador in Pakistan a persona non grata over the missile attack, which the American forces carried out in Bajur where innocent civilians were killed,” the resolution said.
But Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said that the government would neither expel US ambassador Ryan Crocker nor seek any apology from Washington.
“I have no comment on the resolution,” Aslam told a briefing. “We have not sought an apology, but we have made it very clear to the US authorities that security inside Pakistan is the Government of Pakistan’s business.”
The attack on a house in the Bajur tribal agency, which US intelligence sources said targeted Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, triggered nationwide protests and strong condemnation by the government.
Pakistani officials said last week that four foreign militants were killed in the missile attack, reportedly including a bomb maker with a five million dollar US reward on his head and Zawahiri’s son in law.
Zawahiri himself is not thought to have been in the house.
But Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who is in Washington for meetings with US leaders, said Sunday there was no evidence of an Al-Qaeda presence in the village and denied that his government had backed the strike.
“We have not found one body, or one shred of evidence that these people were there,” he told CNN.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan addressed a crowd of opposition supporters at a checkpoint after their delegation was turned back from the attack site, saying the Bajur incident had united the opposition.
“If this unity prevails, we will also remove Musharraf,” he said, referring to pro-US military ruler President Pervez Musharraf, who is loathed by Islamists.
The 70-vehicle convoy containing the legislators reached the Yakaghund checkpoint 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, before police blocked its entry, witnesses said.
“We have instructions from the federal government not to allow the opposition leaders through,” local administration official Muhammad Jamil told AFP.
Opposition party supporters at first chanted slogans against Washington and Musharraf, insisting that the convoy be allowed to continue, but the group eventually headed back to Peshawar.
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