Pakistan Vows to Expel Thousands of Arab Militants
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistan has threatened to expel thousands of Arab militants once bankrolled by Washington in its proxy war against Soviet occupation forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
The Arab extremists had come to Pakistan, mostly from Egypt, in the 1980s to join the Afghan resistance, and stayed on after an Islamic government was installed in Kabul last year to fight for a more strictly fundamentalist state.
But their continued presence has made Pakistan skittish because of the militants’ links to the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and other lawless acts.
On Thursday, the government deplored the presence of Arab mercenaries and warned that their days in Pakistan may be numbered - though its ability to follow through on the threat was doubtful.
″They aren’t just our creation,″ Interior Minister Shujaat Hussein said. ″They are also their (Washington’s) creation during the Afghan war.″
For nine years, until Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, Pakistan was Washington’s bulwark against the spread of communism in southern Asia.
The United States spent billions of dollars on weapons sent to Pakistan for distribution to the Afghan resistance, headquartered in the dusty frontier city of Peshawar.
Initially, Pakistan and the United States welcomed the arrival of the extremists, whose numbers weren’t documented. But now that the war is over, they see them as a destabilizing factor because of the very fundamentalism that brought them to Pakistan in the first place.
Several figures in the World Trade Center bombing in February turned out to be Arab militants who had trained in Afghanistan or were linked to the mercenaries.
Mahmud Abohalima, the former New York City taxi driver from Egypt accused of being the bombing mastermind, fought in Afghanistan.
News reports claimed that two sons of Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel- Rahman, who is said to be linked to several of the bombing suspects, fought in Afghanistan and that the blind cleric himself was in Peshawar in 1990.