Wednesday, October 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India



W O R L D



Two Washington D.C. postal workers who handled mail for Capitol Hill have died and are being tested for anthrax inhalation.
(28k, 56k)

US House leader suspects anthrax-WTC attack link
2 postal workers die on powder inhalation
Washington, October 23
A US congressional leader said after meeting President George W. Bush on Tuesday that “we all suspect” a link between the September 11 attacks on the USA and the current anthrax outbreak.

Exiles set to form council to replace Taliban
Peshawar, October 23
Afghan exiles meet here tomorrow to try to form an elusive Pashtun-led alternative to the ruling Taliban that has become the key missing element in the U.S.-backed drive to oust the tenacious fundamentalist movement.



Giraffes at the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Centre, a common tourist centre 14 km from Nairobi, browse at dusk with not a single tourist to watch on Tuesday. Kenya's tourism industry has plunged after a slight growth just before the September 11 attacks on the USA with companies like the Kenya Airways reporting a 35 million loss ($442,800) in just seven weeks. 
— Reuters



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

 

Turkey for exiles’ meeting on soil
Ankara
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit today described the Taliban as Afghanistan’s “great misfortune” and said Turkey would welcome a meeting on its soil of opposition Afghan factions.

Karachi University teachers protest against US bombing of innocent Afgan civilians.
(28k, 56k)


Sikhs still being targeted in USA
Washington, October 23

Sikhs continue to be at the receiving end of American wrath, with two Sikhs being attacked over the weekend in the suburbs of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state after being mistaken for Muslims.



Nepalese army personnel clean a cannon before it was used during the Dasain festival in Kathmandu on Tuesday. The nine-day national festival which starts on Tuesday, is the longest and most favourite festival of Nepal. Nepalese will put on new clothes and go to honour their family elders, where they receive large red tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. 
— Reuters

Pak militants vow to storm airbase
Jacobabad, October 23

The police erected blockades and sandbag bunkers across this southern city today, girding up for mass demonstrations after Islamic militants vowed to storm an airbase being used to support US military personnel.

Turn Kabul into neutral zone: Pak
Islamabad, October 23

Pakistan’s military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf has called for initially turning the Afghan capital into a neutral zone to prevent the Northern Alliance from occupying Kabul after a Taliban collapse.

EARLIER STORIES
 
Israel rejects US call for pullout
Jerusalem, October 23
The Israeli army extended its incursions into Palestinian areas overnight after rejecting a US demand for its “immediate” withdrawal from self-rule towns in the West Bank, Palestinian security officials claimed today.
Christian and Muslim (C) leaders hold hands during a gathering in the Nativity Church in protest against the ongoing violence in the West bank town of Bethlehem on Tuesday.— Reuters photo

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US House leader suspects anthrax-WTC attack link
2 postal workers die on powder inhalation
Randall Mikkelsen

Washington, October 23
A US congressional leader said after meeting President George W. Bush on Tuesday that “we all suspect” a link between the September 11 attacks on the USA and the current anthrax outbreak.

“I don’t think there’s a way to prove that but I think we all suspect that,” U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said after a meeting between Mr Bush and House and Senate leaders.

His comments demonstrated an increasing willingness by government officials to link the attacks with the anthrax scare, as the number of infections mounts and two postal workers died from the disease on Monday.

US Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said that two postal workers who appear likely to have died from anthrax were casualties in a war the USA was fighting against terrorism abroad and at home.

Gephardt, referring to those responsible for the September 11 attacks and the anthrax outbreak, added, “I think it’s clear that these are people that are both up to no good, and people who know what they’re doing.”

Gephardt also described as “weapons grade” the anthrax bacteria used in a letter received in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, saying the small size of the particles were evidence it had been “milled.”

Although other government officials have declined to describe the material as “weaponised,” Gephardt said: “I think we’ve got to stop parsing words and trying to be anything other than accurate about what this is.”

“This is weapons-grade material ... This is highly sophisticated material. It is small in size and it aerosolises,” he said. “It’s small in diameter, which means its been milled.”

An outbreak of anthrax infections among postal workers in a Washington facility that handled the letter sent to Daschle came as a surprise, Gephardt said. It had not been expected that the pressure of postage handling machines could force the anthrax out of small holes in an envelope, he said. Reuters

PARIS: French courts sentenced to jail or fined four anthrax hoaxers for sending letters containing white powder to scare the recipients.

The first man, a union official, was yesterday sentenced in Marseille to one month in jail and given a five-month suspended sentence for sending a letter to an arbitrator because he disagreed with his decision.

The second person, a former police officer in southwest France, was also jailed for one month for sending a letter with powder to a police supervisor.

In the third case, a 24-year-old woman was given a six-month suspended sentence and fined in the northeast city of Nancy.

The fourth case saw an 18-year-old man in Rouen, northwestern France, being fined $ 680 for sending one of his neighbours an envelope containing white powder and a picture of Osama bin Laden.

DHAKA: The 250 staff members of the British High Commission were evacuated when a receptionist opened a hand-delivered letter and found white powder in it, an embassy official said on Tuesday. The incident occurred on Monday, following which the mission closed for the day, two hours early, said the official.

COLOMBO: Anthrax scare hit the British High Commission here on Tuesday when it became the fifth foreign mission in the country to receive suspicious mail.

Since Friday, staff at the US French and Australian missions in Colombo have been tested for the potentially fatal bacteria after opening mail containing a white granular substance.

The Indian High Commission also received three suspicious letters on Monday. Agencies
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Exiles set to form council to replace Taliban
Tom Heneghan

Peshawar, October 23
Afghan exiles meet here tomorrow to try to form an elusive Pashtun-led alternative to the ruling Taliban that has become the key missing element in the U.S.-backed drive to oust the tenacious fundamentalist movement.

Assembled by mandarins supporting ex-King Zahir Shah, the religious leaders, military commanders, tribal chiefs and intellectuals will spend two days debating how to form a multi-ethnic government that could take over quickly from the hardline Taliban.

Given the Afghan talent for argument and debate, the odds are against any effective action soon, meaning the U.S.-led bombing offensive may not be matched before winter by the vital political campaign to woo the key tribes in the east and south away from their fellow Pashtun Taliban leaders.

“The meeting will discuss different proposals to try to narrow the gap among various groups and try to have one platform,” said Sayed Hamed Gailani, son and chief aide to its convener, Sayed Ahmad Gailani.

Gailani’s Assembly of Peace and National Unity of Afghanistan has invited a wide array of Opposition leaders, from Zahir Shah’s entourage to the Northern Alliance, his son said without giving details.

The meeting will discuss the composition of a proposed 120-man interim council to oversee the transition of power from the Taliban, but it was not clear if its final declaration would name them, exiles said.

The opposition hopes to bring the 87-year-old former monarch back from four decades of exile in Rome.

Led by Sayed Ahmad Gailani, the head of a prominent Sufi Muslim sect and one of the most moderate of the mujahideen (holy warriors) leaders from the 1980s war with Russians its strategy has been to persuade the Pashtun tribes to switch sides and make the Taliban collapse from within.

Former commanders from the Pashtun belt, such as Abdul Haq and Haji Mohammad Zeman, have joined the movement, adding the option of military action if Taliban diehards try to break the Zahir Shah wave.

But the exiles seem to be spending as much time on trying to checkmate their nominal allies as on challenging their declared enemy, even though that could mean losing the momentum the US airstrikes have created.

The clearest rivalry has emerged between the Taliban dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group, about 40 per cent of the 25 million population, and the Northern Alliance — made up mostly of Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities — who control the northeast.

The Pashtuns’ strategy of wooing tribesmen has failed to spark off defections, partly because, as Abdul Haq has complained, the US bombing prompted many of them to rally around the Taliban in the face the invader unitedly.

Diplomacy has also slowed the opposition push as Pakistan, still close to its Taliban protege, has sought to include “moderate” Taliban among the Pashtun and Islamic elements it wants to see dominating any new government in Kabul.

But secret talks in Islamabad last week with one Taliban leaders thought liable to defect — Tribal Affairs Minister Jalaluddin Haqqani — brought no apparent sign of a willingness to switch sides.

The Northern Alliance’s main backers are also wary of trying to bring moderate Taliban on board. Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated this at a rare meeting with alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani on Monday.

In addition, the United Nations has declined to provide the peacekeeping force that Zahir Shah’s supporters say is vital to ensuring a quick and bloodless transfer of power in Kabul.

Zahir Shah must announce now the date of his return to Afghanistan, even if only to the eastern city of Jalalabad if Kabul is not yet safe, Pakistan’s former Foreign Secretary Najmuddin Sheikh wrote this week. Reuters

Dubai: Former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s party has rejected as unworkable the return to power of deposed King Zahir Shah, an option backed by Pakistan, the USA, Russia and the Northern Alliance.

Mr Ghairat Baheer, Director-General of Foreign Relations of the Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan told the Dubai-based Gulf News that the Zahir Shah option was neither workable nor suitable for the country.

“When he was deposed decades ago, there were no protests and not a single bullet was fired in his support,’’ Mr Baheer said.

“While all these decades the Afghans have been sacrificing their lives against foreign invaders and local usurpers, the former King has been living in luxury, oblivious to the sufferings of Afghans,’’ he pointed out.

On why the Hizb-e-Islami has decided to support the taliban in their military conflict against the USA, Mr Baheer said this was because as true Afghans, his partymen and Hekmatyar had a duty to defend their country against foreign invaders. UNI
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Turkey for exiles’ meeting on soil

Ankara
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit today described the Taliban as Afghanistan’s “great misfortune” and said Turkey would welcome a meeting on its soil of opposition Afghan factions.

Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim nation with historical and ethnic ties to Central Asia, has indicated its soldiers could help in training the Afghan opposition.

“There is a Taliban invasion in Afghanistan. This is a great misfortune for the Afghan people,” Ecevit said. “For this reason, it is very much necessary to bring the representatives of the different ethnic groups and the commanders of separate military forces together,” he said. Reuters
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Sikhs still being targeted in USA

Washington, October 23
Sikhs continue to be at the receiving end of American wrath, with two Sikhs being attacked over the weekend in the suburbs of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state after being mistaken for Muslims.

Despite the Sikh community launching a public relations campaign in the USA to educate Americans about Sikhism and its non-involvement in the September 11 attacks, Sikhs continue to be subjected to hostility.

Surprisingly, in the latest incident, a clean-shaven and non-turbaned Karnail Kail Singh, who owns the SeaTac Crest Motor Inn, was assaulted with a wood and metal cane. The assailant is said to have shouted “Go to Allah” and then knocked him down unconscious. UNI
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Pak militants vow to storm airbase

Jacobabad, October 23
The police erected blockades and sandbag bunkers across this southern city today, girding up for mass demonstrations after Islamic militants vowed to storm an airbase being used to support US military personnel.

More than 100 persons were arrested by mid-morning after a protest inside Jacobabad, site of Shahbaz Airbase, though the unrest was not widespread. Most shops were closed and many streets were deserted except for the police, army and paramilitary troops.

Islamic militants summoned by Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest and most influential religious party, vowed to seize the base this afternoon. The party had vowed to marshal thousands of supporters.

Most roads to the city have been blocked and patrolled for days to prevent mass entry, though some were reported open today. During the morning, about 200 militant Muslims appeared inside the city, chanting anti-government slogans. They made no immediate move towards the base, 5 km away.

The police chased them away with batons, ordering them to disperse.

Nearly all were arrested, according to an eyewitness, who said at least five protesters appeared to have been injured by batons.

Two more small groups of demonstrators — one of 25 persons, the other of nearly 15 — were arrested shortly afterwards when they started to march towards the base. AP
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Turn Kabul into neutral zone: Pak

Islamabad, October 23
Pakistan’s military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf has called for initially turning the Afghan capital into a neutral zone to prevent the Northern Alliance from occupying Kabul after a Taliban collapse.

General Musharraf, in an interview to Lebanon’s Future TV yesterday, voiced his objections to letting the Northern Alliance take control of the city they lost to the Taliban in 1996.

“I am very keen that there should be a political strategy crystallised, and put in place in Afghanistan,’’ said General Musharraf, who previous to the September 11 attacks on the USA backed the Taliban but is now advocating a broad-based government.

“I would go to the extent of saying that Kabul should be maintained as a neutral zone and nobody should enter it,’’ he said.

“Because I feel that atrocities could start if at all a vacuum is filled by the Northern Alliance,’’ he added.

Northern Alliance forces are north of Kabul but the lack of sustained US Attacks on Taliban lines facing them has reinforced the impression that Washington shares Pakistan’s concerns about an Alliance occupation of the capital.

Even the Alliance, which is composed of ethnic minorities, has talked of surrounding the capital and a political settlement rather than a military conquest. However, the UN has reacted skeptically to suggestions of the peacekeeping force move into Kabul.

While saying that Taliban as a government would be destroyed by the US attacks, General Musharraf continue to advocate the “moderate’’ members of the Taliban a future government that would be friendly to Pakistan. Reuters
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Israel rejects US call for pullout

Jerusalem, October 23
The Israeli army extended its incursions into Palestinian areas overnight after rejecting a US demand for its “immediate” withdrawal from self-rule towns in the West Bank, Palestinian security officials claimed today.

With Israeli forces already battling gunmen in six Palestinian West Bank towns, troops were sent into Palestinian refugee camps at Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip overnight, the sources said.

Several homes were said to have been destroyed, but there were no reports of casualties.

The latest incursion came hours after Israel rejected the US demand for withdrawing its forces from the Palestinian towns it has operated in since October 18 when the army mounted its heaviest incursions since the launch of Palestinian autonomy in 1994.

Israel Radio quoted the Israeli army as saying that troops had not entered the Rafah refugee camp, as the Palestinians had charged, but instead Israeli army bulldozers were destroying buildings in the area that had provided cover for Palestinian militants.

Earlier, tens of thousands of Israelis filling central Jerusalem to demand that their government topple the Palestinian leadership got a boost from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who addressed the crowd over the telephone.

The demonstrators, identified with the ideological right wing that supports Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza, yesterday called on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and crush his Palestinian Authority.

The crowd cheered as Mr Giuliani’s voice came over loudspeakers. The New York Mayor is a friend of Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Oimert.

“I am very confident that together we are going to overcome terror,” Mr Giuliani said. “We believe in democracy. We believe in the rule of law. We believe in respect for human rights”, he said.

qalqilya (west bank): Israeli army bulldozers, escorted by around 20 tanks, smashed the family house of a young suicide bomber who killed 23 young partygoers in a Tel Aviv nightclub, witnesses said.

The armoured column, part of a massive Israeli push into Palestinian towns six days ago, levelled the house where the suicide bomber’s family lived, arresting a person and ordering the family out of the building before moving in Agencies
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