Pakistani Clerics Denounce Allied Attacks on Afghanistan

Several Muslim leaders in Pakistan swiftly denounced U.S. and British attacks on Afghanistan Sunday, calling them brutal and unwarranted. One Islamic organization summoned Muslims to "extend full support to their Afghan brothers." 

Amar Mehdi, spokesman for the militant Muslim group Harakat ul-Mujahedeen, condemned the military strikes on the capital, Kabul, as "a brutal attack on innocent people." 

"Americans have used their might to kill innocent people in Afghanistan instead of targeting training camps about which they were talking and making a hue and cry," Mehdi said. There was no immediate indication of any casualties when he spoke. 

In the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, a group of Muslim clerics was in special session to discuss the Afghanistan crisis when word of the action reached them. 

The group, Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith Pakistan, issued an immediate condemnation and said Americans now face a "highly critical situation" in the Muslim world. 

Some of the hundreds of clerics in attendance were "shocked and in tears" upon learning of the strikes, Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith Pakistan said. 

"We appeal to all Muslims living anywhere in the world to extend full support to their Afghan brothers in this critical time," said Sazid Mir, the organization's president and a prominent scholar. 

He beseeched the United States to "immediately stop the attacks on Afghanistan and stop targeting innocent Afghans." 

"We have no idea to what extent they have caused damage in Afghanistan," Mir said, "but we are grieved, shocked and worried." 

Some religious leaders from Afghanistan were also present at the meeting, Mir said. 

Explosions were first heard in Afghanistan about 8:57 p.m. local time, or 12:27 p.m. EDT, when it is dark in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Five large explosions shook the city, followed by the sounds of anti-aircraft fire. 

The strikes came a day after Bush warned Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia that time was running out for them to hand over alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants or face the consequences. 

Bin Laden is the main suspect in the deadly Sept. 11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon outside Washington. 

Haraka ul-Mujahedeen was among 27 groups and individuals whose assets were frozen by the United States, Pakistan and other countries as part of a campaign against movements linked to bin Laden. 

The group fights for independence of Indian-ruled Kashmir.