ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- More than 2,000 supporters of a coalition of radical Muslim groups rallied yesterday in the Pakistani capital to condemn a crackdown on Islamic militants that has netted more than 200 suspects.
Chanting ''God is great," and ''Down with America," the protesters -- mostly Islamic students and members of a coalition known as Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Forum -- marched on a main road in Islamabad, briefly clashed with police, and demanded the release of all detainees.
There were no reports of violence at rallies elsewhere in the country, where hundreds of Islamic radicals also protested the crackdown on mosques and offices of outlawed groups that followed the July 7 suicide bombings in London.
Authorities say their aim is to purge the country of extremism.
Earlier, Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, a senior leader of the coalition, said the government has arrested a large number of innocent people to appease Western countries. He said no terrorists were arrested in the raids on Islamic schools, or madrassas, and mosques, and demanded the release of all detainees.
On Thursday, General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, appealed to the nation in a televised address to ''rise up and wage jihad against extremist elements," which he vowed to crush. He also condemned those who carried out the London suicide attacks, which killed 56 people, including the four bombers.
A diplomatic official said yesterday that Pakistani intelligence, acting on a tip from British authorities, has been looking for a man named Haroon Rashid Aswat, 31, who reportedly was in close contact with the alleged bombers.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to talk to the media, said investigations were continuing and attempts to locate a record of his arrival in Pakistan were unsuccessful. A diplomat in Islamabad, who also declined to be identified, said Aswat was not in Pakistan.
Aswat reportedly was once an associate of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical imam who is awaiting trial in Britain on charges of incitement to murder.
Al-Masri also is wanted in the United States on charges of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
US authorities have been questioning James Ujaama, a Muslim convert from Seattle, about Aswat, US officials said.
Ujaama, Aswat and al-Masri all were involved in trying to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999, according to federal indictments of Ujaama and al-Masri. Aswat was referred to, but not named, in Ujaama's indictment in 2002, officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.