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Hundreds of Afghans hold anti-Pakistan protest

Oct 2, 2011, 1:06 a.m.
Afghan men shout anti-Pakistan slogans during a demonstration in Kabul October 2, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

KABUL (Reuters) - Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul on Sunday to condemn recent shelling of border towns by Pakistan's army and accusing its powerful spy agency of involvement in the assassination of the country's ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The protest comes amid heightened tensions between two neighbors, with Afghan officials blaming Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Taliban's senior leadership of plotting to kill Rabbani.

Under tight security, the one-hour rally passed without any incidents. But protesters appeared angry and carried large banners with slogans as they changed "Death to Pakistan" and "Death to ISI."

"Pakistan and its ISI must stop interfering in Afghanistan. Our patience is running out," said Daoud Kodamani, a 22-year-old university student.

"Fighting our country's enemies is nothing new for Afghans and Pakistan is another enemy to fight with," he said.

Many Afghans have long accused Pakistan and the ISI of backing insurgent groups to further Islamabad's own interests, which Pakistan denies.

Rabbani, who was head of the High Peace Council tasked with trying to reach a negotiated settlement to the 10-year war was killed at his Kabul home on September 20 by a suicide bomber claiming to be carrying a message of peace from the Taliban leadership.

Rabbani's killing was widely seen a major blow to the peace process and came amid worsening security in the country as NATO-led troops begin handing security responsibility to Afghan troops in preparation for full withdrawal from the country by the end of 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai hinted on Saturday he had lost hope in pursuing peace talks with the Taliban, whose leadership council, or Shura, is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Karzai said Afghanistan should be negotiating peace with Pakistan instead.

Afghan provincial officials say Pakistan's military had fired hundreds of rockets between September 21 and September 25 in eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces, which share a long border with lawless tribal areas inside Pakistan.

Although, the shelling did not cause major casualties, it followed more than a month of bombardments by Pakistan's military in June and July that Afghanistan said had killed at least 42 people.

Pakistan has repeatedly blamed Afghanistan for giving safe haven to militants on its side of the border, particularly in Kunar province, leaving it vulnerable to counter-attack when it chases them out of its own ethnic Pashtun tribal areas.

(Reporting by Omar Sobhani; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Martin Petty)

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