By Salahuddin Haider, Special to Arab News Staff
Monday 15 October 2001
Last Update 15 October 2001 12:00 am
JACOBABAD/KARACHI, 15 October — At least three persons were killed in clashes with security forces in Pakistan when police tried to prevent a protesters’ bid to besiege Jacobabad air base, in southern Sindh province, being used by US in its military campaign against Afghanistan.
Riaz Durrani, a spokesman for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party which had called for the march to prevent the US from using the air base said two marchers were shot dead by paramilitary rangers in Jacobabad and one by army troops in the nearby Shikarpur town.
Police, which had been given shoot-to-kill orders earlier, said it was attacked by the demonstrators trying to besiege the airport in Jacobabad.
Earlier a doctor in the civil hospital in Jacobabad where the wounded were brought told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA that one had died and two were in critical condition.
Pakistan has reportedly allowed the United States the use of the Jacobabad air base and the airport at Pasni in southwestern Balochistan in its war against terrorism.
Press reports said US warplanes, helicopters and logistic planes have already landed at these air bases, but the Islamabad government is still denying the presence of any combat troops in Pakistan.
Other reports said that dozens including three policemen were injured as a result of clash, baton charge and the use of tear gas shells to control the enraged mob.
The protesters have taken away body of one of the dead from the hospital by force and according to one report it is being kept at a point in the city center, creating more tension in the town, which is already under fire.
Local residents reached on the phone confirmed a complete strike, violence, firing and use of tear gas shells in the city of Jacobabad.
"The city is closed and violence is continuing in the city. We have heard sound of tear gas shells and firing," a witness told DPA.
The police had already made preventive arrests after hundreds of supporters of JUI party and groups announced a siege of Jacobabad airport.
"All roads approaching the air base are being sealed by the police and paramilitary rangers. Pakistan army troops are in control of the Jacobabad base and have taken position to stop any advance by the radical Moslems attempting to reach the base," an official said.
"We have sent more contingents of police and paramilitary rangers to Begari, a spot where pressure to break the police cordon is increasing," an official said.
Riaz Durrani, spokesperson of JUI, claimed that 2,500 activists of the party, which supports the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan, had been arrested, adding that army troops and police had sealed off the town to prevent the protesters from reaching the air base.
Press reports however said over 200 JUI activists were arrested in an overnight crackdown to preempt the planned protest.
Members of the Jamaat Islami party were also picked up in the swoop on potential anti-US protesters but were later released, the newspaper Dawn reported.
Jamaat Islami opposes Pakistan’s support to the US-led war but says it does not want a jihad (holy war) to be started inside Pakistan.
The JI party is holding a public meeting in Karachi Sunday evening to protest the attack on Afghanistan, Pakistan’s support to US-led war against terrorism and allowing use of Pakistani bases, airspace for the military strikes on Afghanistan.
In Karachi also a paramilitary rangers vehicle was attacked overnight in which six personnel were injured, official said. The vehicle came under attack in central Liquatabad area of the port city where a similar attack was carried out on Thursday.
The protesters, who had evaded a huge security cordon thrown up around the city, hurled stones, prompting paramilitary rangers and police to open fire and use tear gas to try to break up the crowds in the town in southern Sindh province.
About 4,000 to 5,000 people had gathered in groups in the town and hurled stones at police as they tried to march on Shahbaz airport, being used by US forces to provide logistical support for the strikes on Afghanistan.
In Nigeria, at least 200 people were reported killed in two days of clashes in the northern Nigerian city of Kano triggered by protests against US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan, residents said yesterday.
Thousands of people fleeing to safe havens in military barracks reported an orgy of killings overnight by gangs of militants. One of the worst-hit areas was Zangon district on the city’s outskirts.
"People were slaughtered in Zangon. There cannot be less than 200 killed Saturday night," said one of many residents ferried in buses under military escort to Sabon Gari.
The federal government of President Olusegun Obasanjo poured in reinforcements of soldiers and police from neighboring states who fanned out across the city, where authorities clamped a night curfew on Saturday.
"As I speak with you now, I can see a body burning in the street," said a Sabon Gari resident speaking by telephone. "He appears to be a Muslim who strayed into Sabon Gari."