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Militants 'could exploit floods'

Islamist terrorists may exploit the chaos and misery caused by the floods in Pakistan to gain new recruits, the country's president said on Thursday.

Asif Ali Zardari's remarks were echoed by US Senator John Kerry, who toured some of the worst hit areas and visited a relief camp alongside the president.

The floods have affected 20 million people and about one-fifth of Pakistan's territory, straining its civilian government as it also struggles against al Qaida and Taliban violence. Aid groups and the United Nations have complained that foreign donors have not been quick or generous enough given the scale of the disaster.

"All these catastrophes give strength to forces who do not want a state structure," Mr Zardari said.

"There is a possibility that the negative forces would exploit the situation. Like they would take the babies who have been made orphans and take them to their camps and train them as the terrorists of tomorrow."

Zardari's government has been criticized for failing to respond quickly enough, and Islamist charities - at least one of which has alleged links to terrorism - have been active in the flood-hit areas.

There are also concerns the scale of the suffering could stoke unrest and political instability that may impact Pakistan's fight against the Taliban.

Mr Kerry said: "None of us want to see this crisis to provide an opportunity or an excuse for people who want to exploit the misery of others for political or ideological purpose and so it is important for all of us to work overtime."

More than three weeks after the floods first begun, the US, Germany and Saudi Arabia all announced new pledges of aid, while Japan said it would send helicopters to help distribute food, water and medicine.

The Asian Development Bank said it would redirect £1.28 billion of existing and planned loans for reconstruction.

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