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All killed in madrassa raid were ultras: Musharraf
K J M Varma in Islamabad | October 31, 2006 18:53 IST
Amidst angry protests by thousands of tribesmen in Bajaur over the death of 80 madrassa students, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday said those killed in the airstrike in the northwestern tribal area were militants who received arms training at the seminary.
The madrassa compound in Bajaur was being monitored for the last several days and "we knew what they were doing," Musharraf said at a two-day international seminar on 'Security in South Asia in the Non-traditional Spheres and Human Security' organised by the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad.
"Anyone who is saying that these people were innocent Taliban (students), is telling lies. They were militants doing military training. We were watching them since the last six or seven days," he said.
"We knew exactly who they were and what they were doing. They were all militants using weapons and doing military training within the compound," he said.
Musharraf's comments came even as thousands of tribesmen rallied at Khar in Bajaur tribal region in the north-west area bordering Afghanistan and protested Monday's airstrike terming it a massacre of innocent tribesmen.
The rallyists condemned the United States for its alleged involvement in the incident.
An American news channel reported that top Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was the likely target of the raid, but Pakistan's military spokesman General Shaukat Sultan denied the reports.
ABC news reported that Pakistan conducted the raid after American intelligence received tips as also after examining evidence gathered from reconnaissance that the Al Qaeda No. 2 leader may have been at that seminary, believed to be the terror outfit's winter headquarters.
The Opposition Muthahida Majlis-e-Amal alleged that the United States was involved in the attack and announced a day of protests.
Geo TV quoted Pakistan officials as saying that the US has provided only the intelligence while the attack was carried out by the Pakistan security forces.
The US military, however, denied any role in the raid saying that Pakistan military conducted the attack independently.
Musharraf said the issue of extremism and terrorism will have to be addressed through a holistic strategy which the government is pursuing.
Extremism and terrorism are the biggest threats to the world and also to the Muslim Ummah, the region and particularly to Pakistan itself, he said.
"Terrorism is being dealt with force while extremism which is a state of mind is being addressed through a prudent approach," Musharraf said.
The Al Qaeda mainly has been defeated, but now the focus has shifted to Taliban and the phenomenon of 'Talibanisation', he said.
Musharraf said he followed a four-pronged strategy to deal with extremism and terrorism.
"The strategy includes use of military force to crush terrorism alongside addressing the political, administrative and development aspects to effectively curb extremism and terrorism in our tribal areas," he said.
Women and minorities must be empowered politically to bring harmony in the society, he said adding, that in Pakistan's context the core issue is economic upsurge and it has to be maintained.