Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Pakistan's Muslim extremists praise suicide bomber, but say he should have targeted Americans

Pakistan's Muslim extremists praise suicide bomber, but say he should have targeted Americans

Author: Munir Ahmad, Associated Press Writer
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: May 10, 2002

Muslim extremists Friday praised an unknown suicide bomber for his "heroic sacrifice" in killing or wounding 23 French citizens in Karachi, but expressed dismay that there were no Americans among the casualties. Three Pakistanis were killed and 11 wounded.

"I don't know who the bomber was, but he picked the wrong target," said Abu Jihad, a member of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is considered very close to the Afghan Taliban and Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al-Qaida network. "We feel sorry for those French and Pakistanis who were killed in the attack."

Many members of Pakistan's outlawed Muslim extremist groups have gone underground in the face of massive arrests by police since car bomb exploded Wednesday next to a bus full of French naval engineers in the volatile port city, but Associated Press reporters were able to talk to some of them Friday.

Fundamentalist Muslim clerics and militant leaders in the capital Islamabad and in Karachi distanced themselves from the attack.

But their students said they were thrilled, especially at first.

"We were happy because someone told us that Germans and Americans have been killed in Karachi," said Abu Jihad, referring to initial confusion about the nationality of the victims. He said he and his fellow students had hugged each other and cheered on first hearing the news.

Hours later, however, their excitement faded when they learned that the victims in the country's worst attack on foreigners were French and Pakistani. To their surprise, no American was even injured.

"Even so the suicide bomber's heroic sacrifice was in a just cause," Abu Jihad said.

Almost immediately after the attack police began raiding homes, offices and religious schools of the suspected militants, said Brig. Mukhtar Ahmed, home secretary of Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.

Many militants, however, evaded capture, police and their colleagues said.

One of the raids was on the Karachi home and school of Maulana Allah Wasaya, wanted in connection with a number of killings, but he wasn't there.

His 12-year-old son Omar Farooq said his father hasn't been home for several weeks. "My elder brother and my sister's husband were arrested by the police, but my father escaped."

Wasaya is a member of Sipah-e-Sahaba, an extremist Sunni Muslim group espousing a Taliban-like Islamic system, and his school provides free Islamic education to poor students.

"None of our elders are present here today," said Mohammed Khalid, a teen-age boy peering through the white iron-gate of the school where more than 350 students are registered. "Students have gone home too. We are closed today."

Police say that many such Islamic schools provide a sanctuary to extremists.

At least 226,000 students attend more than 800 Islamic schools in Karachi, the Sindh government says. Police say it is difficult to monitor and regulate every school.

Police said that by Friday afternoon they had arrested 330 Islamic militants in a nationwide sweep. Most of those arrested belong to Sipah-e-Sahaba, which means the Friends of the Guardians of the Prophet Mohammed, and Jaish-e-Mohammed, or the Army of Mohammed. Both groups have had close ties with the Afghan Taliban and many of their members have links with Arab militants and al- Qaida.

It was a renewed crackdown by the government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has provoked the wrath of Muslim fundamentalists by turning his back on the Taliban and joining the U.S.- led war on terror since Sept. 11.

In January police arrested hundreds of suspected militants when the two organizations and three other Islamic groups were outlawed, but most of them were freed within weeks after the police failed to file charges against them.

"Islamic elements are being arrested just to tell the world that the government is serious in arresting those involved in Wednesday's bomb explosion," said Commander Musa, an Islamabad spokesman for Jaish-e-Mohammed.

"We condemn the attack on the French nationals because they were the guests of Pakistan," Musa said. "They should have not been killed on our soil."

Maulana Mufti Jamil Ahmed, a senior Islamic cleric who runs 17 Karachi religious school with 17,000 students, said the police "have no justification to do all this because the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaish-e- Mohammed are not involved in any acts of violence."

Ahmed said it was un-Islamic to carry out suicide bombings in an Islamic republic like Pakistan.

"Suicide bombing is permissible in places like Palestine and Indian Kashmir (news - web sites) where Muslims are fighting for liberation, but not in Pakistan," he said.

"The Arab Mujahedeen (holy warriors) will also not carry out any such attack here because it is damaging for Pakistan," he said.

Maulana Abdul Rehman, a cleric at the 1,500-student Jamia Farooqia in Karachi's low-income Shah Faisal Colony neighborhood, said, "We don't allow any students who are members of the outlawed groups in our school."

The militants denied the bus attack was terrorism.

Maulana Abdul Aziz, head of an Islamic school in Islamabad, said, "We warned the Pakistan government of a possible reaction if it did not stop its support to America against Afghanistan (news - web sites)," Aziz said. "But nobody paid any attention to our pleas."

(Editor's Note: Associated Press Writer Amir Zia in Karachi also contributed to this report.)

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