(TheBlaze/AP) — About three dozen American anti-war activists are headed toward Pakistan’s militant-riddled tribal belt to protest U.S. drone strikes, but a faction of the Taliban has warned that suicide bombers will prevent their demonstration.
The anti-war activists– many of whom are from the far left women’s organization Code Pink– are reportedly joined by thousands of Pakistanis in their march, and their motorcade is being led by ex-cricket star turned politician Imran Khan. Militants have dismissed Khan as a mere tool of the West despite his condemnation of the drone strikes, which have killed many Islamist insurgent leaders.
Odds are, the Taliban aren’t too crazy about getting help from women who dress up as giant vaginas either.
Pakistanis in small towns and villages along the roughly 400-kilometer (250-mile) route warmly welcomed the 150-plus vehicle convoy, however. Footage broadcast on Pakistani TV showed people showering rose petals on the motorcade, but by late Saturday it appeared increasingly less likely that the protesters would reach their ultimate destination. The South Waziristan tribal area, where the group hoped to stage a major rally, is simply too dangerous.
Because foreigners are normally forbidden from entering Pakistan’s tribal regions, it is unclear whether the Westerners would have ever been allowed in.
Still, the American protesters echoed Pakistani condemnations of the U.S. drone strikes, saying they have terrorized peaceful tribes living along the Afghan border and killed many innocent civilians – not just Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
“I’m hoping that what (the protest) will show is that the Pakistani people and American people and even the people in the tribal areas want peace,” said Joe Lombardo, a U.S. activist from Delmar, New York.
James Ricks, another American activist, said he was going along with the convoy despite the danger. “I am taking this risk because my government is committing international war crimes, and we want to stop this,” said Ricks, of Ithaca, New York.
NBC News conducted an interview with Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of Code Pink, and others participating in the protest:
The main faction of the Pakistani Taliban, which is based in South Waziristan, issued a statement Friday calling Khan a “slave of the West,” adding that the militants “don’t need any sympathy” from such “a secular and liberal person.”
“Imran Khan’s so-called Peace March is not in sympathy for drone-hit Muslims. Instead, it’s an attempt by him to increase his political stature,” the statement continued.
The former cricket star long had a reputation as a playboy, but has recently started saying that he has grown stronger in his Muslim faith. He also has used attacks on the U.S. drone program as a means of gaining public esteem in Pakistan.
By Saturday, a statement from a Taliban faction said to be based in eastern Pakistan warned that militants would welcome the protesters with suicide bombings.
“We ask the brave people of Waziristan not to side with the gang of Jews and Christians – otherwise their fate will be terrible,” the Punjabi Taliban said in the statement.
(H/T: Weasel Zippers)