Tuesday, October 30, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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Pak tribals take over airstrip
Ready to go on front, Taliban say hold on

Islamabad, October 29
Thousands of armed pro-Taliban tribesmen today took over an airstrip in the remote Pakistani border town of Chilas and broke open a jail in the area, releasing 36 prisoners to protest against the military regime’s support to the US-led strikes in Afghanistan.

The tribesmen who were waiting in the Bahjour agency in Peshawar to cross over into Afghanistan to join the Taliban took control of the Chilas airstrip to prevent it from being used in the military campaign against the militia, media reports here said.

The militia had also told them not to cross over into Afghanistan until the USA began the ground battle.

“The angry protesters have taken control of the Chilas airstrip due to fears that the government might use it in operations against the people,” Sayed Jafer Shah, a member of the Pakistan’s Northern Areas Legislative Council from Gilgit was quoted as saying in the local media here.

The takeover of the Chilas airstrip followed the ongoing blockade of the famous Karakoram highway connecting Pakistan and China for the past four days by protesters demanding that the government stop its support of US strikes in Afghanistan.

The authorities were negotiating with the pro-Taliban men to unblock four segments of the ancient Silk Route.

Besides taking over the airstrip, the tribesmen have also taken up positions on both sides of the highway and erected barricades at different places, a report in the local daily The News said.

Meanwhile, Taliban told the jehadi fighters not to join fighting in Afghanistan till the USA fielded ground troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban’s Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters here today that time has not yet come for “Muslims of other countries” to join the Taliban in their fight against the American-led coalition forces.

“We respect the spirit of the Muslims and will not stop them to come to Afghanistan, who want to wage jehad but we want to tell them that time has not come for their arrival as Americans are using fighter planes to drop bombs,” he said.

On reports that thousands of Pakistani tribesmen have lined up to join the fighting, he said, “Jehad has become obligatory on Muslims and we will not stop them, but the ground battle has not started,” he said. PTIBack

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