Friday, January 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Powell to visit Pakistan on Osama hunt
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 10
United States’ Secretary of State Colin Powell will be in Islamabad next week to finalise the blueprint of a covert military operation to flush out Osama bin Laden and the top leadership of Al-Qaida and Taliban believed to be in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) region of Pakistan.

Well-placed sources here today disclosed that Washington was now hundred per cent sure that Bin Laden, the ‘most wanted’ man on earth, was hiding in Pakistan and looking for an opportunity to escape to some other country.

The Americans have recovered the “last will” of Bin Laden and his top aide Ayman al Zawahiri from one of the caves in Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan in which they bade farewell to their supporters. In this handwritten will, Bin Laden and Zawahiri have told their cadres that they would re-emerge in some other country at an opportune time and continue their “jehad” against the USA.

The sources said the Americans were concerned about the possibility of a disguised Bin Laden making good his escape through sea route and for this purpose were scouring the international waters. The Americans are keeping a close watch on all ships and vessels leaving Pakistan waters in search of Bin Laden and other ‘most wanted’ men.

Asked which country would harbour Bin Laden after the thundering American action against the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the sources said the billionaire civil engineer-turned-terrorist could head towards countries like Somalia, Yemen and Sudan and try to live there incognito.

Gen Colin Powell, sources said, would be visiting Pakistan to finalise certain operational and diplomatic nitty-gritty with American commanders deployed there and the Pakistan leadership. Pakistan is understood to have conveyed certain problems in launching a military operation in FATA to nab Bin Laden.

According to diplomatic observers here, General Powell’s visit to the Indian subcontinent was mainly because of the USA’s operational requirements vis a vis Pakistan.

As for his visiting India, they said it was mainly a diplomatic balancing act on part of Washington as a US Secretary of State visiting Pakistan and skipping India would certainly send wrong signals. There is nothing much that Washington has to say to the Indian leadership what it cannot say to Union Home Minister L.K. Advani who is already in the USA and Defence Minister George Fernandes who will be in the USA when General Powell will be arrive in the Indian subcontinent.

General Powell will arrive here on January 17. The next day he will be meeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and depart. He is likely to hold a brief press conference jointly with Mr Jaswant Singh just before his departure. The seriousness of the situation on the Osama front for America can be gauged by the fact that a number of American Senators believe that Bin Laden is in Pakistan. Senator John Edwards, a member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, who travelled to Pakistan recently with other Senators, said Uzbekistan military intelligence believed that Bin Laden had crossed the border into Pakistan.

According to diplomatic sources here, Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Bob Graham said bin Laden and other top officials had probably escaped Afghanistan but no one was certain where he was. Senator Graham said in Miami “increasingly, as our efforts to get them in Afghanistan have been futile, there is a greater sense that they have, in fact, escaped and are probably in one of those territories just over border into Pakistan.”Back


Assets of 4 Pak-linked bodies frozen

Washington, January 10
The Bush administration has frozen the assets of four more entities, all of which have links in Pakistan, for financing terrorist activities and maintaining links with Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida network.

The Treasury Department last night froze the assets of the Afghan Support Committee, which has locations in Peshawar and Jalalabad in Afghanistan; and the revival of Islamic Heritage Society with offices in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The entities also included two individuals.

According to the Treasury, the Afghan Support Committee is a non-governmental organisation established by Laden in Jalalabad. PTIBack

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