Musharraf says terror will be crushed

Posted in Broader Middle East | 16-Aug-04 | Source: (Pakistan)

President Musharraf inaugurates the newly constructed Heritage Museum by unveiling the plaque at Lok Virsa Complex.
ISLAMABAD, Aug 14: President Pervez Musharraf vowed on Saturday to crush Muslim militancy, saying there would be no let-up in the country's biggest crackdown on Al Qaeda operatives and other radicals.

The President, speaking at a musical show held to mark the Independence Day, said foreign militants linked to Osama bin Laden's network and their local allies posed the biggest challenge to the country.

"We will crush them and will not allow them to move forward," he said.

Mr Musharraf lashed out at some political parties for supporting the cause of Islamic militants.

"We reject extremism, intolerance and terrorism and are making efforts to introduce the soft face of our society. I promise my nation that I will not disappoint you," Mr Musharraf said.

He made no direct reference to a spate of recent arrests across the country, including top Al Qaeda operatives, which have raised hopes that security forces may be getting closer to Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.

Officials have played down such hopes, saying whereabouts of world's two top wanted men were still a mystery.

In its massive sweep since July, security forces have caught about 30 foreign and local militants, revealing growing evidence of links between Al Qaeda and local militant groups.

The information extracted from them prompted the terror alert in the United States early this month.

The local militants developed links to Al Qaeda terrorists in the 1980s when they jointly fought in the US-backed Afghan war against Soviet occupation.

On Saturday, six hand-made bombs exploded in Quetta but caused no casualties.

President Musharraf survived two assassination attempts in December blamed on Al Qaeda-linked militants. Last month, federal finance minister Shaukat Aziz narrowly escaped a suicide attack last month.

The president said the government would remain undeterred in its hunt against militants.

"In my view, the biggest challenge to this country is the spread of terrorism by some elements of foreign countries with the collusion of some Pakistani religious and sectarian extremists," Mr Musharraf said. "But we can't be scared of terrorism. We can't be defeated."

On Friday, security forces arrested an Islamic radical linked to the assassination attempt on Mr Aziz.

Others arrested in the recent crackdown include Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani wanted for the 1998 attacks on US embassies in east Africa and a Pakistani computer engineer Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan.-Reuters/dpa <