Saturday, October 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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US troops in Afghanistan
Taliban deny truce plan, not to hand over Laden

Islamabad, October 19
As the USA deployed special commandos in the Taliban's heartland in Southern Afghanistan, indicating a possible ground assault, the Taliban's envoy to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef denied having said that the militia had prepared any ceasefire plan in a bid to end the crisis engulfing Afghanistan and ruled out handing over terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Addressing a press conference here soon after his return from Kandahar, Zaeef said a Quetta datelined report quoting him as saying that he carried a ceasefire proposal which he planned to submit to Pakistan was “wrong”.

“The report is wrong and there is no such proposal,” he said, adding that he planned to meet Pakistani officials shortly.

Zaeef said there was no question of surrendering Bin Laden or his Al-Qaeda members.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials confirmed that a small number of US special forces, used for small scale and covert operations including search and destroy missions, were in southern Afghanistan, President George W. Bush refused to comment on it.

“I will not comment on military operations,” Mr Bush told a joint press conference with Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin on the sidelines of APEC meeting at Shanghai in China.

“I have made very clear at the outset of this campaign that I will not respond to rumours and information that seeps into public consciousness for fear of disrupting the operations that are taking place” in Afghanistan, he said.

The Pentagon officials in Washington said on condition of anonymity that US troops have been deployed on the ground inside Afghanistan in recent days for duties “consistent with the changing nature of the operation.” They said it could be the first phase of a larger US troop presence in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said today it was prepared to listen to any new proposals that Taliban might put forward to put an end to the Afghan crisis. “Surely, if he has any proposal, we would be prepared to listen to him,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan. Agencies
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Over 600 LeT ultras aiding Taliban: weekly

New Delhi, October 19
Over 600 Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) militants have been placed at strategic locations to guard international terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, Janes Defence Weekly has reported.

In a despatch on Afghanistan, the weekly said the Taliban helds the heights to the South and East of the ex-Soviet airbase.

Radio intercepts from the command bunker in the old control tower regularly pick up the commands of the foreign cadres operating along the frontline, half a kilometre away, the Janes report said.

“Babajan and other senior commanders have confirmed that over 600 Kashmiri militants, most notably units of LeT, have been placed along the main Taliban strategic stronghold of Mount Sufi which lies 3 km south of the airbase,” the report said.

Janes further said it was believed that these militia were “personally placed there by Bin Laden two weeks before the September 11 attacks.” PTI
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