By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
83 people were killed in missile attacks on a madrasa in the tribal area of Bajour. These attacks took place on October 30th, 2006 on a Monday morning.
A Pakistani Military Spokesperson said the attacks were carried out by the Pakistan government and they believe that that madrasa was training militants.
He also said that the operation was only launched after sound intelligence reports that it was a training center for terrorists. However, locals claim the attacks were carried out by American Hellfire missiles, and Pakistani helicopters only came approximately 20 minutes later and fired missiles at a nearby hillside and not actually at the already-destroyed madrasa.
Locals in the nearby village said they were awakened by a terrible blast at 5 am. A second blast followed right after. Eyewitnesses said the madrasa was flattened by the first attack. 20 minutes after, they claim, Pakistani helicopters showed up and fired rockets into the hills. A local resident said, â€œSpy planes (drones) have been flying over the area for the last few days.â€
â€œAbsolutely. I have no doubt in my mind that it was done by the Americans and we are now making a futile attempt to cover it up,â€ this statement was made by Sahibzada Haroon Rashid, who is a member of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the lower house of parliament, while talking to reporters over the phone. He lives a couple of miles away from the bombed site.
Local residents rushed to the scene and tried to recover bodies. However, not all of the bodies were found, and only very few bodies were un-mutilated by the attack. Out of the 83 dead, only 55 were accounted for. The rest were so badly mauled that they could not be identified. Most of those killed were in their teens and early 20s.
The funeral prayer (for some of the victims) was held at 9 am on the same day. People rushed to join this event from villages and towns all around the madrasa.
40 bodies were buried in the cemetery nearby. 15 bodies were sent to their families and villages. Maulana Faqir Mohammad, one of the alleged targets who was not in the premises of the madrasa at the time of the attack, said in a speech after the event that â€œjihad will continue against U.S and against others who want to destroy peaceâ€ in this area.
Protest rallies were organized all over Pakistan to condemn the attacks on the madrasa.
In Punjab, the cities where protests were held included Faisalabad Wazir abad and Jhang. In Sindh, protests were held in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana, Sanghar, Naushehro Feroze, Nawabshah and Shikarpur. In NWFP, the cities that participated in anti American and Anti Paksitan government rallies were Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Swat, Charsadda, Haripur, Bannu, Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan. In Khaar near Bajour the crowd showed up with Kalashnikovs and some with weapons as heavy as rocket launchers, shouting slogans against America and President Musharraf. Maulana Faqir Mohammad spoke to the crowd and promised that, â€œOur jihad will continue.â€
MNA Mohammad Hanif Abbasi, along with other religious leaders, spoke against the attacks in Rawalpindi. They said the strikes had not killed any militants, but in fact had left young students and their teachers dead.
The Bar Council of Punjab held a rally in Lahore on the same day. Also in Lahore during the meeting on Tuesday the Lahore coordination committee of the Pakistan Peopleâ€™s Party said that the government should step back because the reports that the bombing was done by American military are overwhelming.
The vice-chairperson of the Punjab Bar Council, Chaudhry Mohammad Azhar, suggested at a press conference in Lahore that the Supreme Court should set up a judicial committee to find out exactly who the target of the strikes was, and who actually was behind this decision and action.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the representative of the opposition in the National Assembly, said in a speech made to a crowd in a rally that the army and the government was not doing Pakistan any favors by taking responsibility for a crime committed by the US. He made these comments in a small town near South Waziristan. The leader of Jamaat-e-Islami wanted to take his protest to the attack site, but was not given permission to enter the area.
US Press Secratory Tony Snow said during a briefing at the White House that, â€œThis was intended against Al Qaeda.â€ He also praised the President of Pakistan by saying, â€œhe has shown courage and determination.â€
However, while Washington approves of the attacks it denies any involvement or connection to it. Snow denied the United Statesâ€™ involvement in these words, â€œWe do generally have an intelligence coordination relationship with the government of Pakistan but (I am) not aware of any coordination on this particular strike.â€