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Karzai, Musharraf hold talks on fighting militants, other issues

Karzai, Musharraf hold talks on fighting militants, other issues

The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged during an unusually cordial meeting to share intelligence and tighten border controls to quash rising militant attacks.
Talks between the two leaders _ who frequently argue over the source of cross-border attacks _ came amid a wave of violence in Pakistan blamed on local Islamic extremists in the largely lawless border region. A suicide bombing during a prayer service at a mosque Friday killed 56 people and an attack on a military convoy in the area Sunday killed nine.
"People from both the countries are suffering under the hands of extremism and terrorism," Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said at a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday evening.
Karzai was to conclude his two-day visit on Thursday after holding talks with local business leaders and investors on promoting economic cooperation between the two countries. He was also expected to meet with Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
The ongoing violence has led to disputes between the two U.S. allies in the war on terror, with Afghan officials saying the militants are using bases inside Pakistan to orchestrate attacks against President Hamid Karzai's government, and Pakistan denying the accusation.
A recent U.S. intelligence report indicated that al-Qaida may be regrouping in North Waziristan, a tribal region where militants have staged almost daily attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent months.
During the news conference, Karzai said militant attacks on the Afghan side of the border have been decreasing, while attacks on the Pakistani side were rising.
Musharraf didn't challenge Karzai's assessment but said Pakistani offensives in the Swat region and other areas had badly weakened the militants there and he said there would be more operations in other regions in the coming days.
During the meeting, both sides agreed to increase their intelligence cooperation and to increase border security to separate militants trying to cross the frontier from legitimate traders, he said.
The two leaders, however, have held similar meetings in the past with few results. When asked what was different now, Karzai said the atmosphere in the meeting was better and both sides agreed on the root cause of the violence.
"We are facing the same problem, we are tackling the same enemy that is creating the problem, destroying homes and killing people on both sides," he said. "Since we are agreed on what is the problem and how to stop it, there are more chances of success."
Violence continued Thursday when a bomb exploded near a police van in the town of Pir Baba in northwestern Pakistan, wounding two officers, said Qayyum Khan, a local police officer.
The day before, about 100 pro-Taliban militants attacked a police checkpoint and kidnapped eight police officers after a gunbattle near Bannu, a town in the North West Frontier Province along the Afghan border, said Dar Ali Khattak, a Bannu police official.
Six youths playing cricket nearby were wounded in the crossfire, he said.
Pakistani police also caught a would-be suicide bomber as the 15-year-old boy tried to carry a 500 gram (one pound) bomb into a rally for Bhutto in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said local police officer Rahim Shah.
Bhutto, a former prime minister who returned from exile to lead her opposition party in Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, has repeatedly accused Musharraf of failing to curb the rise of Islamic militants since he seized power in a 1999 coup.
In October, suicide bombers struck a parade celebrating Bhutto's return from exile, killing more than 140 people in the southern city of Karachi.


Updated : 2021-05-14 08:28 GMT+08:00