Monday, September 17, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

USA gears up for war; Taliban firm on Laden

Washington, September 16
The USA readied its forces today to strike back at those behind the worst assault ever on the American soil, while Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban reaffirmed its position of sheltering chief suspect Osama bin Laden.

The US military and thousands of reservists prepared for duty after President George W. Bush declared the nation was getting ready to smoke its enemies “out of their holes.”

Five days after the hijacked commercial jets slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing as many as 5,000 persons, the rescuers today hoped against hope to find survivors as they entered the sixth day of digging through the rubble of the 110-storey twin towers.

“On the issue of Osama bin Laden, there has been no shift in our stand. We maintain our old position,” Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil told the Afghan Islamic Press today.

“We are responsible for the security of all those living in our country,” he said, when asked how Afghanistan would respond to retaliatory strikes by the USA against Bin Laden.

The world’s financial leaders, already nervous that the global economy might be slipping into recession, watched anxiously as New York prepared to resume stock trading on Monday, opening access to the Wall Street and testing vital computer systems that were shut down after the World Trade Center collapsed.

Law-enforcement officials tightened the net on those believed responsible for Tuesday’s attacks, with 25 persons who have been or will be questioned by the FBI in custody for possible immigration violations.

Meanwhile, the US Navy in the Gulf declined to disclose any information about military forces or naval movements in the area today and usually informative Pentagon websites were shut down or “under repair” for security reasons.

“We will not be saying anything for the time being,” a US Navy spokesman at the big Jufair base in Bahrain told Reuters.

US officials have identified 19 persons, including seven pilots, who they believe commandeered four passenger jets on Tuesday.

The FBI has arrested a person in New York, described as a west Asian man who had a fake pilot’s license, and was seeking another unidentified person on a similar “material witness” warrant.

Yesterday, police had arrested an unidentified man in New Jersey in connection with the attacks, while two other men taken off a train in Texas and questioned for two days were moved to New York for further interrogation.

The Newsweek magazine reported that the FBI had been hunting two of the hijack suspects in the USA since late August on the suspicion that they were linked to Bin Laden’s organisation.

The Washington Post reported today that top US defence officials were unaware that a hijacked plane was hurtling towards the Pentagon on Tuesday despite a Federal Aviation Administration alert to the nation’s military air defense command.

Some abroad urged caution, including Manila Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin, who called on the USA today not to match “terror with terror.”

At the mountain of rubble that marks what is left of the twin World Trade Center towers, rescue efforts continued today despite the disheartening fact that no survivor had been found alive since Wednesday.

Only five persons have been pulled out alive. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said 4,972 persons were still missing. Of 159 bodies recovered, 99 had been identified — in 15 cases on the basis of partial remains.

With families and friends still gripped by grief and the city patrolled by the National Guard, New York nevertheless continued to ready itself for Monday’s resumption of normal business.

Economic fears abounded, especially in the airline industry, which was back to only about half of its capacity yesterday after an unprecedented nationwide shutdown.

Continental, Northwest, Delta and American Airlines have all said they face potential financial catastrophe, prompting Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to schedule a Monday meeting with airline executives to discuss their financial woes.

America’s sports stadiums were to remain silent today, with weekend games cancelled.

NEW YORK: A passport belonging to one of the hijackers, who took part in this week’s terrorist attacks, has been recovered several blocks from the World Trade Center building where the plane crashed, New York police has said.

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister said in remarks published on Sunday that some Saudi nationals have been detained in the USA for questioning on last week’s terror attacks on New York and Washington.

“The US authorities informed us of the detention of the suspects,” Saudi Arabia’s Arabic-language Okaz newspaper quoted Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal as saying.

United Arab Emirates official sources have said two men suspected of being involved in Tuesday’s attacks, who had been reported to be UAE nationals, were actually Saudis with international driving licences issued in the UAE.

The UAE official sources identified the two as Ahmad Ibrahim Ali al-Hazoumi and Wael Mohammad al-Shehri and said they were issued the licences based on Saudi driving licenses in 2001.

Saudi authorities have made no official comment on the reports. DPA, AFP



Allies caution USA against hasty attacks

London, September 16
As President George W. Bush rallied a global coalition for “war’’ after the attacks on the USA, he heard encouraging sounds of solidarity today but also fretful caution against hasty retaliation.

In Europe, where NATO allies could offer military support in any action against the Islamic extremists suspected of the strikes, British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed loyal backing. France, Germany and others, including former Cold War foe Russia, are supportive of military action. But there were anxious pleas, too, that Mr Bush avoid setting the wider Muslim world against the West and critical voices were raised against the US foreign policy. ReutersBack


Laden leaves Kandahar

Islamabad, September 16
Anticipating US strikes, wanted Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden has sneaked out of Afghan town of Kandahar, along with his wives, children and followers and moved to an undisclosed secret locations in Afghanistan.

Pakistan daily The News quoting sources in Kandahar said not a single Arab national was now visible in the city. They said Osama’s large family had been shifted to safer places in the countryside.

The daily said Osama and his men were reported to have moved to one of their hideouts in a remote parts of the country. PTI


Taliban call clerics’ meeting

Kabul, September 16
The spiritual leader of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar, today called an urgent meeting of senior Islamic clerics to discuss the defence of the nation.

“As regards the possible attack by USA on the sacred soil of Afghanistan, veteran honourable ulemas (clerics) should come to Kabul for a Sharia decision,’’ Mullah Omar said in a statement broadcast on the Taliban’s Voice of Shariat Radio. “The nation can defend Islam and their country in the light of their verdict,’’ he said. ReutersBack

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