U.S, Pakistan warn of militant plots over floods

Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:41pm EDT
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By Alistair Scrutton

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a senior U.S. senator warned on Thursday that Taliban insurgents are trying to exploit rising anger over the country's worst floods to promote their cause.

More than four million Pakistanis have been made homeless by nearly three weeks of floods, the United Nations said on Thursday, making the critical task of securing greater amounts of aid more urgent.

Eight million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and many may not care where they get it.

The floods began washing away villages and destroying roads and bridges just after the government had made progress in stabilizing the country through offensives against Taliban.

Islamist charities, some with suspected links to militant groups, stepped in to help victims, possibly boosting their image at the expense of the U.S.-backed government, which is still accused of being lax nearly three weeks into the crisis.

U.S. Senator John Kerry, who visited flood-hit areas with Zardari, said action must be taken to prevent anyone from exploiting frustrations.

"We need to address that rapidly to avoid their (Pakistani's) impatience boiling over, and people exploiting that impatience and I think it's important for all of us to understand that challenge," Kerry said, in a clear reference to the Taliban. "We also share security concerns."

About one third of Pakistan has been hit by the floods, with waters stretching tens of kilometers from rivers.   Continued...

<p>Ali Hassan, a villager, holds his sandals and meal as he wades through floodwaters in Amri village, August 19, 2010. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro</p>