March 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Al-Qaida men die’ in US allies’ offensive
hikes defence budget
identifies Sheikh Omar
peace efforts: Bush
The mother of Loay
Dabaya, a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli troops two days ago in Jenin, screams during his funeral in the West Bank city of Nablus
on Wednesday. Israeli forces swept through the Gaza Strip in a hunt for militants and aircraft bombed two Palestinian security targets on Wednesday in a burst of round-the-clock retaliation.
— Reuters photo
Tamils eased to push peace bid
‘400 Al-Qaida men die’ in US allies’ offensive
Bagram Air Base (Afghanistan), March 6
Eight US servicemen had been killed and around 50 wounded in intense fighting against the besieged extremists holed up in the mountains of Paktia province bordering Pakistan, Major Brian Hilferty said.
Major Hilferty said he did not know how many Al-Qaida and Taliban soldiers were left. At the start of the offensive the Pentagon gave a figure of “hundreds” of hostile fighters regrouping in the Arma mountains, but local Afghan fighters put the number as high as 2,300.
Some 2,000 allied troops including around 950 US regular and special forces troops are taking part in Operation Anaconda, named after the snake that encircles and crushes its prey.
Some 200 commandos from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and Norway are on the ground, according to the Pentagon. Three Afghan allies and one US soldier were killed Saturday as the coalition forces met heavy fire from the Al-Qaida fighters, he said.
On Sunday coalition forces regrouped and went on the offensive.
One US soldier was captured and killed by Al-Qaida fighters and six more died as they tried to rescue him, Major Hilferty said.
Military officials in Washington said the deaths came when one helicopter was downed and another hit by enemy fire.
Fighting was continuing today in Shahikot valley, 50 km south of the provincial capital Gardez, where coalition forces had encountered stiff resistance, he added.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s most powerful warlords came together today with interim government leaders and United Nations officials for a landmark conference to discuss security in the war-torn country.
The conference on building a national army was attended by all of Afghanistan’s major warlords, including Abdul Rashid Dostam and Ismail Khan, as well as interim leader Hamid Karzai and UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi.
“Since the establishment of the interim administration, the Defence Ministry has taken gradual steps towards the creation of a national army,” Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim told the conference.
Sirkankel: A US Navy SEAL believed to have died after falling from a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan was captured by Al-Qaida fighters and shot dead, US military officials said yesterday.
Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts (32) of Woodland, California, was seen by a Predator unmanned reconnaissance drone “being dragged off by three Al-Qaida men,” according to Major-Gen Frank Hagenbeck, US ground commander.
Pentagon officials said Roberts was killed by the Al-Qaida fighters, and Marine Major Ralph Mills added that he had been shot.
Roberts is one of at least eight US troops to die in the clashes since Saturday.
The fierce fighting in Paktia province on Monday claimed the highest US casualty figure for a single day of combat in the Afghan campaign, when Al-Qaida fighters attacked two US special forces helicopters and killed seven US soldiers, including Roberts.
As part of Operation Anaconda, a small group of US special forces were to work with a local Afghan commander, General Zia Lodin, to flush out suspected Al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Sirkankel, some 40 km south of Gardez.
China hikes defence budget
Beijing, March 6
Expenditures for national defence in the central budget for 2002 will be increased by $3.05 billion, Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng told nearly 3,000 deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s Parliament.
"We will appropriately increase expenditures for national defence to utilise modern technology, especially high technology to raise our army’s defence and combat capabilities, safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity and adapt to changes in the international situation," Xiang said in his national budget proposal on the second day of NPC session.
Analysts noted that the latest double-digit increase in military spending by China was the 13th straight year of double-digit hikes for the PLA, the world’s largest standing army.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said China wanted India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes, including the Kashmir issue, through bilateral negotiations and made it clear that its growing relations with the two countries were not in conflict with each other.
In his annual press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress he said China would continue to play a “unique constructive role” in easing the current tension between New Delhi and Islamabad.
“What the South Asian subcontinent needs most is peace, stability and development,” he commented.
Tang stressed that both India and Pakistan were good neighbours of China, and said developing Sino-India and China-Pakistan relations could run parallel without conflict.
Stating that China and India shared common ground than differences, he said he was “optimistic” about the prospects of bilateral ties.
He said India's External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, whom he described as his “old friend,” was coming to China at the end of this month at his invitation. The latter Singh is set to visit Beijing from March 29, taking the inaugural direct flight between Beijing and New Delhi to be operated by China Eastern Airlines.
identifies Sheikh Omar Karachi, March 6 However, police and court officials declined to say how the witness, an unnamed taxi driver believed to have taken Pearl to a Karachi restaurant on the evening of his disappearance, was able to identify the suspect, Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Sheikh Omar, as the suspect is commonly known, arrived at court amid tight security with his face covered by a cloth. Tuesday’s court order said the government had verbally assured the court it would not violate the country’s laws should Omar eventually be extradited to the USA. Police said Sheikh Adil, who is suspected of involvement in sending two emails to media organisations containing photographs of Pearl in captivity, was also produced in court. Police say they are also hunting seven other men suspected of being involved in Pearl’s abduction, including Amjad Hussain Farooqi, the man believed to have actually kidnapped the reporter.
Karachi, March 6
However, police and court officials declined to say how the witness, an unnamed taxi driver believed to have taken Pearl to a Karachi restaurant on the evening of his disappearance, was able to identify the suspect, Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Sheikh Omar, as the suspect is commonly known, arrived at court amid tight security with his face covered by a cloth.
Tuesday’s court order said the government had verbally assured the court it would not violate the country’s laws should Omar eventually be extradited to the USA.
Police said Sheikh Adil, who is suspected of involvement in sending two emails to media organisations containing photographs of Pearl in captivity, was also produced in court.
Police say they are also hunting seven other men suspected of being involved in Pearl’s abduction, including Amjad Hussain Farooqi, the man believed to have actually kidnapped the reporter.
Redouble peace efforts: Bush
Washington, March 6
For peace in the region, we “must continue to redouble our efforts, which we will,” he said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday.
“The key, however, for us to get to the solution is to bust this cycle of violence,” he said.
Mr Bush said Egyptian offer to host an Israeli-Palestinian summit and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz’s peace proposal would lead to peace in the region.
Saudi Crown Prince “laid out an interesting idea” for peace in the region, he said appreciating Mr Aziz’s proposal for normalisation of Arab-Israel relations in case peace is restored between Israel and Palestinians.
Mr Mubarak said the Saudi offer to establish normal relations with Tel Aviv, in case Israel-Palestinian peace prevails, has been made for the first time in the history.
Curbs on Tamils eased to push peace bid
Colombo, March 6
The rebels and the government have signed an indefinite Norwegian-brokered truce agreement also designed to make life easier for civilians in the war zone.
“The controls have been relaxed in keeping with the spirit of the agreement,’’ said military spokesman Brig Sanath Karunaratne.
Tamil civilians had to apply for numerous passes to travel outside the war zone and comply with draconian registration requirements or risk detention without trial, sometimes for several months.
The rules differed from area to area, but local media reported that in one part of the northern Vavuniya district the number of travel permits was reduced to three from 24.
Security in other parts of the country has also visibly eased since a new government was elected in December on a promise to talk with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The truce and the new security arrangements have drawn fire from nationalists among the Sinhalese majority opposed to a compromise with the rebels who want a separate Tamil state in north-eastern Sri Lanka.
GETS JAIL FOR FUNDING SCAM ISLAMIC REBELS KILL 15 MILITIAMEN BABY
SPICE SIGNS DEAL
ISLAMIC REBELS KILL 15 MILITIAMEN
SPICE SIGNS DEAL
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