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UPDATED: 17:59, October 30, 2006
Pakistan provincial minister, MP resign over religious school bombing
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A Pakistani provincial minister and Member of Parliament resigned on Monday to protest the bombing of a religious school, which locals said killed more than 50 people.

Gunship helicopters bombed a madrassa (religious school), which was being used to train militants in the Bajur tribal region in a pre-dawn attack on Monday, a military spokesman said.

Siraj ul Haq, Senior Minister of North West Frontier Province and Haroon ur Rashid, Member of the National Assembly, resigned to protest the attack.

Haq and Rashid attended the funeral of those died in the attack and announced their resignations while speaking to thousands of the mourners.

"There is no need to sit in the parliament if we can not protect our people," the two men said, who belong to Jamaat-e- Islami party.

"There were casualties as between 70 to 80 people were present at the madrassa when the security forces conducted operation at 5 a.m.," army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said.

However, he did not give any details about the number of casualties. Local private Aaj TV said more than 50 people were killed in the strike.

Sultan said that the religious school, located north of Khar, the headquarters of Bajur tribal agency, was being used for "wrong activities."

"Most of the targets were eliminated," the spokesman said.

"The attack was launched after confirmed information was received that the inmates were involved in terrorist training," army spokesman Sultan said. He added that the seminary was being observed for a few days.

"The operation was successful," he said.

A private TV channel said that the targeted madrassa was owned by a local leader of a banned group "Tanzeem Nifaz-e-Shariat-e- Muhammadi(TSNM)."

It is the second major attack on Bajur in less than a year.

In January the United States launched a missile strike on a village in the Bajur area in an effort to kill al-Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The strike killed 18 people but Pakistani officials said that al-Zawahiri was not among the dead.

Monday's attack occurred two days after a huge anti-U.S. demonstration in Bajur, bordering Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province.

The demonstrators chanted slogans in favor of Osama bin Laden and Taliban's Mullah Muhammad Omar.

A jirga or council of tribal elders was planned to be held in Bajur Monday to sign a peace deal with the government but it had to be cancelled following the attack, the report said.

Source: Xinhua

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