Thursday, January 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

How Osama was smuggled into Pakistan
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 2
The covert operation to facilitate Osama bin Laden sneak into Pakistan from Afghanistan in November could well be the script of a spy thriller.

A Pakistani warlord from Pashtun-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Mulla Sufi Mohammad, played a pivotal role in smuggling the most elusive man on earth from Afghanistan to Pakistan, well-placed sources here disclosed to The Tribune today.

Here is how it happened.

It was sometime around Ides of November last when Mulla Mohammad had reached the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with a long cavalcade carrying hundreds of his fully armed men.

The cavalcade also carried a dangerous cargo: Osama bin Laden.

Mulla Mohammad’s men — who belonged to Tehriq-e-Nifaz Shariat Mohammadi (TSNM), a Sunni militant organisation led by Mulla Sufi Mohammad — had been camping on the Afghan-Pakistan border for some time and were not allowed to return to Pakistan. But the Pakistani army officials were not allowing them to enter Pakistan unless Mulla Mohammad surrendered along with his arms and the men.

Mulla Sufi Mohammad, a Pashtun, had crossed over to Afghanistan leading a brigade of his 10,000 men after America’s “Operation Enduring Freedom” started on October 7.

Apparently by mid-November when Kunduz was about to fall, Bin Laden had decided to sneak into Pakistan’s FATA, an area which is completely under the control of Pashtun warlords and where the writ of Pakistan government does not run.

The “negotiations” between the Pakistan army and Mulla Sufi Mohammad continued for several days. The drama of negotiations was a perfect smokescreen as it gave an opportunity to Osama and his family to get inside Pakistan even as the “negotiations” continued.

Mulla Sufi Mohammad finally surrendered to the army on November 22 and was quickly put in a jail in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). But his mission had been accomplished as in this melee Bin Laden had already entered Pakistan on or around November 19.

This version of events has come out of interrogation of 140 Al-Qaida prisoners by FBI officers in Kandahar, diplomatic sources pointed out. These prisoners have categorically told the FBI that Bin Laden is alive and well and living in Pakistan.

These 140 Al-Qaida prisoners have been transferred from a jail in Sheberghan in Northern Afghanistan to Kandahar jail.

FBI agents are trying to get more information from these Al-Qaida prisoners who mostly belong to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt and Chechnya. Interpreters of different languages are also flying to Afghanistan for sustained interrogation of these men, sources disclosed.

In Afghanistan, Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Habib also said on December 28 that Bin Laden was no longer in Afghanistan but has taken refuge in Pakistan. He quoted reliable intelligence sources as saying that Bin Laden had slipped out of Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan into Pakistan.

Sources said Bin Laden was presently hiding in Bajour where the tribal leader Mulla Sufi Mohammad rules. It is difficult for the army to enter the difficult terrain of Bajour, one of the eight tribal areas of FATA.

It was in 1994 that the Taliban came into prominence when they looted army trucks proceeding towards Afghanistan border with the help of TNSM activists. No elections are held in FATA. Its members, called Maliks, are nominated as Member of National Assembly (MNA) by the Pakistan government.


Pak hands over 85 Al-Qaida men to USA

Islamabad, January 2
Pakistan has extradited over 85 Al-Qaida men to the USA for investigations and trial.

The Al-Qaida fighters, who were arrested sneaking into Pakistan recently while escaping the US bombing of the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan, were taken to the airport blindfolded and handed over to the US commandos at Kohat airbase, Pakistan newspaper Ausaf reported today. PTI

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