Thousands gather in Pakistan to hear Taliban speeches

AFP – More than 10,000 pro-Taliban supporters rallied near the Afghan border in southwest Pakistan Friday to hear a tape by the brother of slain Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah.

Slogans of “long live (Taliban supremo) Mullah Omar, (Al-Qaeda chief) Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban movement,” rang out at the charged gathering in Killi Nalai, a village in Baluchistan province, an AFP photographer said.

The fiery voice recording was said to be of Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, who has replaced his brother as military commander after he was killed about three weeks ago by NATO-led forces in southern Afghanistan.

“We will never forget the blood of our martyrs and will complete Dadullah’s mission of expelling the infidels and their lackeys from our motherland,” he said on the tape.

“It is the responsibility of every Muslim to join jihad (holy war).”

A man who said he was a Taliban commander named Abdur Rahman spoke to the crowd in person, saying that he had been fighting in Afghanistan.

He hit out at civilian casualties in Afghanistan, saying that foreign troops in Afghanistan “always bomb instead of fighting face-to-face and so most of the casualties are innocent people, including children and women.”

When he asked the crowd if they were ready for jihad, they chanted: “Yes, we will follow.”

Several current and former members of parliament from hardline Islamist political parties were also among the speakers.

Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s famously brutal, one-legged military commander, was the most senior figure from the movement to be killed since the hardliners were removed from government in 2001.

Afghan intelligence officials have said he was targeted last month after crossing over the rugged 2,500 kilometre (1,500-mile) frontier from Pakistan.

Friday’s protest comes amid increasing pressure on Pakistan’s military ruler President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on militants who are launching cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

Islamabad admits some insurgents do travel into Afghanistan. It says most of the militants are Afghans living in refugee camps and urges their swift repatriation. Pakistan remains home to more than two million Afghan refugees.

General Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war on terror, is confronting the worst political crisis of his eight years in power over his suspension of the head of the country’s Supreme Court.

Army commanders affirmed their full support for Musharraf on Friday.

The military has been fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s border areas, especially its tribal zone, since 2003.

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