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"Osama" leaflets circulate in Pakistani tribal area

Written by: Staff

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, May 6 (Reuters) Militants fighting the Pakistani army in the Waziristan tribal region today distributed leaflets in the name of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, calling for the assassination of President Pervez Musharraf.

''I also pray to the one and the only Almighty Allah to teach a telling lesson to Bush, Musharraf and their forces, and give a chance to the lions of Islam to kill the slave of Bush in Pakistan,'' read the leaflet.

Musharraf, has survived several al Qaeda assassination attempts by Pakistani jihadi groups since siding with US President George W Bush in a global war on terrorism following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

And bin Laden's Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, who is believed to be moving between the Pashtun tribal lands on either side of the Pakistan-Afghan border, last month issued a videotape again calling for Pakistanis to overthrow Musharraf.

Printed in Urdu, the leaflet began with an introduction in Arabic saying it was a message from bin Laden calling on Muslims everywhere to aid the tribespeople under attack from Pakistani forces in Waziristan.

Its signoff read ''Mujahideen Emirates Islamia Afghanistan'', or the Holy Warriors Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.

The leaflet was circulated in Miranshah and Mir Ali, two towns in North Waziristan, where clashes between pro-Taliban militant tribesmen and security forces have worsened since early March after helicopter gunships smashed a compound used by fighters, mostly from Chechnya and Central Asia and Afghanistan.

There has been a lull in fighting for the past few days, and an unofficial truce is expected to hold through to the middle of next week as thousands of Muslim preachers and scholars have converged on Miranshah to hold a congregation over several days.

The congregation was organised by Tablighi Jamaat -- a largely apolitical Lahore-based missionary group whose followers spread Islam throughout the world -- and its main event passed off without incident today.

Bin Laden is believed to have passed through North Waziristan during his flight from Afghanistan in late 2001, but most security analysts believe that while he is probably somewhere in Pakistan he is unlikely to be in the tribal areas.

Military officials say they have killed 324 Islamist militants in North Waziristan and lost 56 soldiers since the middle of last year.

A Pakistani intelligence officer told Reuters last week there were up to 1,000 foreign militants still roaming around North Waziristan.

The military campaign switched to North Waziristan last year from South Waziristan.

Embarrassingly for the Pakistani authorities, self-avowed former Taliban fighters are now imposing their law in large parts of South Waziristan and recruiting fighters to sneak across the border to wage a guerrilla war against US-led and government forces in Afghanistan.

Reuters PM RS2151

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