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Zardari says citizens must oppose extremists

By Munir Ahmad

Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s new president said he was trying to persuade his country to support the war against Islamic extremists, after a group that claimed responsibility for the Marriott Hotel bombing threatened more attacks.

The attack in the capital Islamabad and the new threats underscored the danger Islamist militants pose to Pakistan, where al-Qaida and Taliban fighters have established bases in tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan.

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan to crack down on the northwest bases, even launching its own attacks, but those American strikes have outraged a population already unhappy with Pakistan’s alliance with the United States.

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Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York that international support for Pakistani anti-terror efforts was important but that unilateral U.S. strikes undermined efforts to win "hearts and minds."

"There is the physical dimension, there is the economic side," Zardari said, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. "The idea is to increase acceptance of the fight inside Pakistan and outside Pakistan, and we are striving to improve on this idea."

Authorities also boosted security at Islamabad’s international airport today after a telephone threat warned a suicide bomber would attack the facility.

Flights were not affected and more than an hour after the time the caller said the strike would take place, no such attack had happened, said senior airport security officer Col. Ashraf Faiz.

"It was a specific threat," he told reporters. "The airport is on red alert."

Meanwhile, in a cell phone message to reporters, the little known group calling itself "Fedayeen al-Islam" — "Islam commandos" — called on Pakistan to stop cooperating with the United States and referred to the owner of the Marriott in Islamabad by name.

"All those who will facilitate Americans and NATO crusaders like (hotel owner Sadruddin) Haswani, they will keep on receiving the blows," said the message in English.

It was impossible to verify the identity of the group or say whether it was in a position to make good on the threat. Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.

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The group in an earlier message claimed responsibility for Saturday’s truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel where 53 people were killed and more than 270 were wounded.

Little or nothing is known about the group. Pakistani officials suspect al-Qaida or Taliban militants carried out the bombing.

Denmark’s intelligence service said today that one of its staff members was killed in the bombing. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service says that DNA tests confirmed that Karsten Krabbe was among the 53 fatalities in Saturday’s truck bombing.

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