KARACHI, Pakistan - Thousands of Pakistanis took to the
streets in cities across the country yesterday to protest a U.S. missile
attack two days earlier that killed more than a dozen people but apparently
missed its target, al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
In Karachi, Pakistan's most populous city, about 8,000 people rallied
outside the main mosque, listening to fiery speeches condemning the United
States and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
"There has been a protest in every big city, and the government understands
why so many people are angry," said Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, information minister.
"When it comes to image-building in Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan,
the U.S. is moving one foot forward and two backwards."
U.S. senators, though, defended the strike on talk shows yesterday.
"We apologize, but I can't tell you that we wouldn't do the same thing
do what we think is necessary to take out al-Qaida, particularly the top
operatives. This guy has been more visible than Osama bin Laden lately."
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) also defended the action. "It's a regrettable
situation, but what else are we supposed to do?" he said on CNN's "Late
Edition." "It's like the wild, wild West out there. The Pakistani border is a
Friday's rocket attack in the village of Damadola, just over the border
from Afghanistan, was carried out by the CIA with an unmanned Predator drone
firing missiles at houses where al-Zawahri was thought to have been, according
to U.S. military and intelligence sources. The CIA has declined to comment.
Pakistani officials initially said 17 people were killed, but a senior
intelligence official in Islamabad said yesterday there was evidence of 13
deaths, eight of them women or children. Local officials said the victims were
all local residents and not militants.
U.S. intelligence sources are uncertain about the identities of those
killed, including whether al-Zawahri was among them.
A second Pakistani intelligence official discounted reports that the FBI
was considering doing DNA tests to determine whether any of the dead were known
terrorists. "What do you think, that the families of the victims would let us,
or the Americans, dig the graves of their loved ones for FBI tests?" the
official asked, speaking on condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials said the Pakistani intelligence service had helped
coordinate the strike. But Saturday, Pakistan formally protested the incident.
About 19,000 U.S. soldiers operate just over the border in Afghanistan, but
the Pakistani government has not given them permission to cross into Pakistan
in pursuit of al-Qaida fugitives, many of whom are believed to be hiding out in
the largely lawless tribal areas on the Pakistani side.