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Rally demands Afghan supplies end

Protest in Peshawar
Protesters shouted "Down with America"

Thousands of protesters in Pakistan's city of Peshawar have demanded an end to US air strikes and to supplies to Nato and the US in Afghanistan.

The protest was organised by the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party.

The protesters linked the supplies to the alleged US missile attacks on targets within Pakistani territory.

There has been a spate of hijackings and attacks on vehicles carrying crucial overland supplies to US and Nato troops fighting the Taleban.

Lorry drivers this week said there would be no more organised convoys due to the worsening security although some supplies are continuing.

'Black flags'

About 5,000 protesters demanded that the government close the route. At least 75% of overland supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan travels through North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

map

They shouted "Down with America" and "Jihad is the only solution of America".

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed said: "We consider the presence of American forces in Afghanistan a big conspiracy against Pakistan.

"They take their supplies to Afghanistan on our roads and in return they kill our people with bombs. This must be stopped."

He added: "Don't take up guns in your hands but greet these convoys with black flags as they pass by your homes to force them to stop."

Hardline parties held power in NWFP after elections in 2002 but were well beaten in polls this February.

Since September the Taleban in Pakistan have targeted vehicles carrying supplies for foreign forces in Afghanistan.

They have hijacked lorries, stolen their cargo and kidnapped their drivers.

Shakir Afridi, president of the Khyber Transport Association, said this week the dire security situation made it impossible for its members to continue deliveries.

The supply line passes from the port city of Karachi and through the Khyber Pass.

There have been a number of missile attacks by pilotless US drones on targets inside Pakistan, which the government in Islamabad has strongly opposed.

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