Monday, October 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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4,000 Taliban militiamen defect to our ranks: Dostum
Three-pronged offensive on Mazar-e-Sharif
Dasti Kala /London, October 14
An entire 4,000-strong Taliban division, complete with its commander, defected to the rebel Northern Alliance as its forces swept through three provinces yesterday (Saturday).

Opposition Northern Alliance soldiers stand in a trench on the frontline near Charatoy town in the north of Afghanistan on Sunday. Opposition Northern Alliance soldiers stand in a trench on the frontline near Charatoy town in the north of Afghanistan on Sunday. U.S.air raids against the Taliban have sparked an exodus of people from cities-- many heading towards Pakistan.
— Reuters photo

Five more anthrax cases in USA
Spores by mail ‘terrorism’
New York, October 14
Five new cases of exposure to the deadly anthrax disease were diagnosed in the USA this weekend, heightening fears that the country could be facing a bio-terrorism campaign.
Video: (28k, 56k)

11 hijackers didn’t know of suicide plan
London, October 14
FBI investigators have officially concluded that 11 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the aircraft on September 11 did not know they were on a suicide mission, intelligence sources in London said last night.

First US strike failed to kill Omar
Washington, October 14
This is one miss that may cost the USA dearly. It appears that on the very first night of US attacks in Afghanistan, the American forces had Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in their gun-sights, but failed to kill him as the rules of engagement did not permit it.



The US army drops food  packages in an Afghan town controlled by the Northern  Alliance.

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EARLIER STORIES
 
A 12-member  Green-
-peace  team  has  begun  clean-up  and containment  of a six-tonne stockpile of obsolete pesticides and contaminated material in Nepal.

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Freezing JeM assets ‘won’t hit J&K fight’
Islamabad, October 14
Pakistan says there will be no significant damage to the “freedom struggle” in Jammu and Kashmir after the USA froze a Kashmiri terrorist group’s assets and put its name on the terrorist watch list.

Knighthood for NY Mayor
London, October 14
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is to receive an honorary knighthood from Britain, official sources told Reuters today.

Disneyland on hit list?
Washington, October 14
America’s landmark buildings and amusements parks, including Disneyland, have been surveyed by terrorist groups for possible attacks, according to three internal government reports.

Over 200 die in clashes
Kano (Nigeria), October 14
More than 200 people have been killed in two days of religious clashes in the northern Nigerian city of Kano triggered by protests against US air strikes in Afghanistan, residents said today.

LTTE for peace talks only with UNP govt
Colombo, October 14
The LTTE is preparing to hold direct peace talks with the Sri Lankan government, if the opposition United National Party(UNP) wins the December 5 general elections, a media report said today.
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4,000 Taliban militiamen defect to our ranks: Dostum
Three-pronged offensive on Mazar-e-Sharif
Chris Stephen and Kamal Ahmed

Dasti Kala /London, October 14
An entire 4,000-strong Taliban division, complete with its commander, defected to the rebel Northern Alliance as its forces swept through three provinces yesterday (Saturday).

News of the success was given to The Observer in an exclusive interview with the general responsible, Rashid Dostum. Speaking by satellite phone from deep inside Afghanistan, the General said Taliban units were now laying down their arms, and that a three-pronged offensive was closing on the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

“Three provinces have joined with us, 4,000 armed forces joined us, and their commander, Mullah Abdulla,’ he said. `Last night we captured a convoy - 140 men, and 36 heavy weapons and anti-aircraft guns.’

He said the second prong of the advance, led by General Ustad Atah, was now close to the outskirts of Mazar- e-Sharif, but had halted to avoid air strikes pounding the city. “We can take Mazar-e-Sharif, but not yet, not yet,” said General Dostum. “There is bombardment from the US forces. We must stop outside.”

Three eastern provinces - Jowzjan, Faryab and Sarepol - have gone over to the alliance, following the defection of two other eastern provinces, Ghowar and Herat, earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, the third arm of the offensive has seen General Ismail Khan, commander of a force of Shia Muslims, surround a Taliban force trapped in the centre of Herat city. “The Taliban are inside, the alliance forces are around them,’ said the General. Alliance commanders say there is now a real possibility that the entire northern half of Afghanistan will switch away from the Taliban, as defections trigger a domino effect.

“We are with the enemy, face to face. I think a lot of ordinary Afghan soldiers will join us,’ said Alam Khan, general of the 1st Division, at the frontline base of Dasti Kala in north-east Afghanistan. “In two weeks, God willing, we can drive from here to Mazar-e-Sharif.”

These are the Taliban’s worst defeats in the new round of fighting that broke out after the bombing of the World Trade Center and last month’s assassination of the alliance’s Defence Minister, Ahmed Shah Massooud.

General Khan said Northern Alliance officials were making overtures to secure the defection of all Taliban forces in the north of the country, promising them an amnesty and even offering that they could join the alliance. “Our enemy is not the ordinary Afghan soldier,’ he said. “Our enemy is the Taliban and their foreign allies, Pakistan and the Arab soldiers.”

Intercepted radio instructions revealed that Taliban commanders plan to move units of Pakistani, Arab and other guerrillas south, to avoid their being trapped by the rebel offensive. “They were told to move out quickly. We have already cut one of the two routes out,” said General Khan. “If we cut the second road, they will be trapped.”

If these units - including cadres from terrorist training camps aligned to Bin Laden - are caught, they are unlikely to be offered amnesty. The alliance is seeking vengeance for the killing of General Massood by two Bin Laden suicide-bombers. The Observer, London
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Five more anthrax cases in USA
Spores by mail ‘terrorism’

New York, October 14
Five new cases of exposure to the deadly anthrax disease were diagnosed in the USA this weekend, heightening fears that the country could be facing a bio-terrorism campaign.

Five more employees of a Florida publishing company, where a man who died of anthrax last week and two other people that were exposed to it all worked, tested positive for anthrax exposure, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

In New York, network executives and local officials said a second employee of the NBC broadcasting network was showing symptoms of anthrax, a day after it was revealed that one of her colleagues was ill.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said yesterday that the first NBC employee, identified by the media as Erin O’Connor, was infected after she opened a threatening letter containing a powder that contained anthrax.

It was the first time that the source of anthrax has been pinpointed since a scare over the illness emerged last week, and it came as anthrax spores were also found on a letter sent to a Microsoft office in the state of Nevada.

The second NBC employee to develop anthrax-like symptoms, who has not been identified, is on antibiotics after developing a rash, fever and swollen lymph nodes and is responding well to treatment, officials said.

It was not however immediately clear if the new cases detected among employees of American Media Inc. (AMI) — a publisher of tabloid newspapers — in Boca Raton, Florida were related to the three earlier exposures.

Law enforcement sources said signs of anthrax were detected in the blood of the five workers, indicating they had come into contact with anthrax bacteria at some point, but not necessarily recently.

Nearly 1,000 people who spent time in the AMI offices have been tested and given antibiotics.

While nine exposures to anthrax have now been confirmed, only two people — Stevens and O’Connor, who is suffering from the less serious skin anthrax and is expected to make a full recovery — have been confirmed as infected.

Meanwhile, the hospital emergency rooms were less crowded on Saturday, but anthrax fears still swept the country.

A US Airways flight from North Carolina to Denver made an unscheduled landing in Indianapolis on Saturday after an unidentified powder, later found to be nontoxic, was found in the plane's galley.

WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said today that the spreading of anthrax spores through mail could be terrorism but was not necessarily carried out by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network.

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if he suspected terrorists were behind the recent spate of anthrax cases in the USA, Thompson replied: “What do I suspect? You’ve got to suspect that it’s possible.”

He said sending anthrax bacteria through the mail would “definitely” be terrorism, but added that Al- Qaida would not necessarily be to blame. Thompson said it could be carried out by someone with a grudge.

“We have no imminent threats of any chemical or biological attack at this time in America,” he said. AFP, UNI, Reuters 
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11 hijackers didn’t know of suicide plan
David Rose

London, October 14
FBI investigators have officially concluded that 11 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the aircraft on September 11 did not know they were on a suicide mission, intelligence sources in London said last night.

Unlike the eight “lead” attackers, who were all trained pilots, they did not leave messages for friends and family indicating they knew their lives were over. None of them had copies of the instructions for prayer and contemplation on the eve of the attacks and for “opening your chest to God” at the moment of immolation, which FBI agents discovered in the luggage of Mohamed Atta, the man believed to be the hijackers’ leader, who flew the first plane to destruction in New York.

It is understood the FBI has found evidence suggesting the 11 men expected to take part in “conventional” hijackings — with the planes flown to distant airports, and the passengers and crew taken hostage while the hijackers presented demands. Items found among the 11 men’s possessions suggest they had been preparing themselves for incarceration. One source said: “It looks as if they expected they might be going to prison, not paradise.”

The FBI analysis concludes the 11 may have believed the purpose of the hijackings was to free the perpetrators of previous extremist terrorist attacks on the USA, such as the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Other clues suggest the purpose for the 11 was to provide “muscle”: to overwhelm the passengers and crew. They had arrived in the USA only recently and had not had pilot training.

Atta’s final instructions, with their pleas for divine forgiveness, indicate that even the most fanatical fundamentalist had to make considerable psychological preparations before setting off to cause thousands of civilian deaths. Selecting those ready to carry out such a mission would not have been easy. By keeping a majority of the hijackers in the dark as to their real purpose, these problems were avoided, the sources said.

Western intelligence services say the FBI’s conclusions help to explain why, despite strong indications that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network was planning a spectacular atrocity, the West remained ignorant about its scale, location and detail. “Of course it is inescapable that this was a terrible intelligence failure,” a British Government source said. “But the FBI analysis at least puts it into context. The terrorists’ security was extraordinarily tight. They were employing intelligence organisations’ most basic principle: the need to know.” The Observer, London 
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First US strike failed to kill Omar

Washington, October 14
This is one miss that may cost the USA dearly.

It appears that on the very first night of US attacks in Afghanistan, the American forces had Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in their gun-sights, but failed to kill him as the rules of engagement did not permit it.

According to a report in the New Yorker magazine, filed by well-known investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, an unmanned “Predator” reconnaissance aircraft operating in the Kabul area located a convoy carrying Omar as he fled the capital.

The “Predator”, which is armed with two anti-tank missiles, could have been used to eliminate Omar. But, under the rules of engagement in effect Sunday night, the CIA could not order such a strike, the report said.

It was instead decided to target a few cars in front of the building, in a bid to scare Omar out of its premises.

Omar did leave the building, but not immediately. Moments after he left, the building was attacked and destroyed by US F-18 jets.

LONDON: Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is hiding in a cave in Afghan mountains with 300 of his elite commandos and the US and British forces will never be able to capture him, a media report quoting his 18-year-old son has said.

“America and Britain will never track down my father. He has vanished,” Bin Laden’s son Abdullah Laden who fled Afghanistan a week ago said in an interview with the Sunday Mirror in Islamabad.

In the interview, Abdullah said one of his father’s most trusted advisers came to him on September 11, and “told me my father had gone by horse to the mountains with 300 of his commandos.”

“There, they will be completely safe. Their home in the caves is very secure. The adviser said that a convoy of around 60 trucks filled with computers and satellite equipment had left Kabul at the same time.”

The same night Abdullah and his family were ordered to leave the house, the report said. They moved to a giant bunker on the outskirts of the Afghan city of Jalalabad, where they lived for three weeks. Then last Sunday night, shortly after the first wave of allied air strikes, they drove for four hours to cross the Pakistan border. PTI
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Freezing JeM assets ‘won’t hit J&K fight’

Islamabad, October 14
Pakistan says there will be no significant damage to the “freedom struggle” in Jammu and Kashmir after the USA froze a Kashmiri terrorist group’s assets and put its name on the terrorist watch list.

SADA news agency quoted foreign office spokesman Muhammad Riaz Khan as saying: “The Kashmir freedom struggle does not depend upon one group or a country. It is the struggle of the people of Kashmir for their right of self-determination.

“If Indian ‘repression’ in occupied Kashmir intensifies, the freedom struggle would also intensify.”

The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday froze the assets of Jaish-e-Mohammad along with two other organisations after they were put on the watch list. The Pakistan-based Jaish is one of several terrorist groups claiming to fight for the “freedom” of Kashmiri people.

The spokesman said Pakistan would look into the matter as three organisations were put on the watch list due to their suspected links with the Al-Qaida group of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

Except for Jaish-e-Mohammad, none of the other two other organisations is widely known, he said.

About Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir, the spokesman said: “We believe in de-escalation of tension. We invited Indian leader (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and his foreign minister (Jaswant Singh to Pakistan to discuss the dispute). But our position on Kashmir issue is based on U.N. resolutions.”

About U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s forthcoming visit, he said the discussion with him would focus on the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan-India relations and Kashmir.

He said Kashmir was a dangerous source of tension not only between the two countries but also for the region. “This is an important visit at an important juncture,” the spokesman said. IANS
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Knighthood for NY Mayor

London, October 14
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is to receive an honorary knighthood from Britain, official sources told Reuters today.

The award follows Giuliani’s widely praised leadership in the wake of the September 11 hijacked airliner attacks in New York, which killed thousands of people and destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The sources said Giuliani had been recommended to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth for the award, the highest honour the sovereign can bestow on a foreign citizen.

Mayor Giuliani would join a select group of Americans to have received the honour, including the US Secretary of State Colin Powell, film director Stephen Spielberg, British born comedian Bob Hope and former President George Bush. Reuters
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Disneyland on hit list?

Washington, October 14
America’s landmark buildings and amusements parks, including Disneyland, have been surveyed by terrorist groups for possible attacks, according to three internal government reports.

The reports said the terrorists evaluated Disney World at Florida, Disneyland in California and the Sears Towers the tallest US building in Chicago — the nation’s tallest building — and several large sports facilities in the USA.

Terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the September 11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, also evaluated the sprawling Mall of America outside Minneapolis and unspecified sports facilities, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer that quoted two senior administration officials familiar with the reports.

Investigators found among possessions of the hijackers and their alleged colleagues sketches or reports describing the Sears Tower, the theme parks, the Mall of America, and unknown sports facilities, according to internal government reports.

The FBI warning on Thursday of possible new attacks was, however, not based on the reports that terrorists had been evaluating specific targets but on a message to Al Qaida operatives to launch attacks in the USA and perhaps elsewhere.

The FBI also issued an urgent request “to immediately notify the FBI and local law enforcement of any unusual or suspicious activity.”

Terrorists are known to carefully check out buildings or other sites that will be involved in an attack. Some of the hijackers who crashed the four jets on September 11 were seen on similar planes weeks before the attacks. IANS
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Over 200 die in clashes

Kano (Nigeria), October 14
More than 200 people have been killed in two days of religious clashes in the northern Nigerian city of Kano triggered by protests against US air strikes in Afghanistan, residents said today.

Most of the killings took place overnight as rival Muslim and Christian gangs rampaged in heavily populated districts on the outskirts of town despite a night curfew and orders to police to shoot protesters on sight.

One of the worst hit areas was Zangon district outside the city centre — a Muslim stronghold with a significant Christian minority. Those fleeing were Christians.

“People were slaughtered in Zangon. There cannot be less than 200 killed last night,” said one of many residents ferried in buses under military escort to Sabon Gari where most non-Muslim immigrants live.

Officials have so far only spoken of “many killed” and have not issued any definitive figure on those killed. Reuters
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LTTE for peace talks only with UNP govt

Colombo, October 14
The LTTE is preparing to hold direct peace talks with the Sri Lankan government, if the opposition United National Party(UNP) wins the December 5 general elections, a media report said today.

LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran has told his aides to prepare a basis for negotiations, which would be headed by guerrilla groups political wing chief S.P Tamilchelvam, Sunday Island reported.

In a significant shift in strategy, the rebels would be holding direct talks with the government and would not need the facilitation of Norway, it said.

The LTTE is confident that the Peoples Alliance(PA) of President Chandrika Kumaratunga would be defeated in the parliamentary polls, it claimed.

The UNP, which has said that it would work with Tamil and Muslim parties and PA defectors in the elections, is in an upbeat mood after Kumaratunga dissolved parliament last week and called for fresh polls.

The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), meanwhile, has formed a coalition with three smaller parties to contest the election in the Tamil-majority north and east of the country.

The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) and a faction of the Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Organisation (EPRLF) are in the alliance that is expected to have an electoral arrangement with the UNP front.

The UNP is seen as business-friendly, while the PA, with already two small left parties in its coalition, caused some discomfiture in the industry by striking a deal with the JVP to survive in office. PTI
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