Wednesday, April 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Al-Qaida training pilots in Pak
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
The world’s most wanted man Osama bin Laden may be dead or alive but the fact is that factories of terror — Al-Qaida and the Taliban — are still plotting to launch spectacular September 11-type terrorist attacks aiming to kill tens of thousands of people in one single attack.

This is no cock and bull story as American investigators are understood to have unearthed hard evidence suggesting as much, well-placed sources told “The Tribune” today quoting classified information received here through diplomatic channels.

At least nine of the 50-odd Al-Qaida terrorists arrested from different parts of Pakistan last week by joint operations of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Pakistani security agencies, had been getting pilot training in a flying club in Peshawar.

Obviously, the terrorists were undergoing training to hijack planes and use them as flying bombs over high-profile, high-density targets a la September 11 attacks.

Five of the nine trainee pilots arrested last week, were significantly involved in the September 11 attacks in the USA.

Interestingly, all these trainees were keen on learning how to take off and appeared disinterested in learning how to land the plane, a trait starkingly similar to the September 11 suicide squad led by Mohammad Atta who rammed the first hijacked plane into tower I of World Trade Center (WTC), sources disclosed.

This chilling evidence has surfaced following the arrested terrorists’ interrogation by the FBI in Pakistan. At least five of these nine men are Sudanese, while the rest are suspected to be Egyptians.

The names of six of the nine persons are as follows: Abu Zubaidah, Abu al Hasnat, Nooruddin, Al Mujahid, Badar and Dawood. All except Zubaidah are Sudanese.

Of these, the most important man is Zubaidah, a 30-year-old Egyptian. Zubaidah had come to Pakistan a couple of months ago on the instructions of Bin Laden to regroup Al-Qaida leaders and the Taliban during the US bombing. His stature within Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida is apparent from the fact that he is widely believed to be a lieutenant of Bin Laden, perhaps as close as Ayman Al Zawahiri.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian medico, is generally perceived to be number two in Al-Qaida’s hierarchy but there have been conflicting reports of his having been killed or seriously wounded during the recent American operations in the Shah-i-Kot valley of Afghanistan. Because of the fact that he happens to be a qualified doctor, he was chosen by bin Laden to be with him round the clock.

An important aspect is that even though the Al-Qaida men were staying put in Pakistan for months, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) took no notice. This is yet another instance of the ISI elements being hand in glove with terrorists sneaking into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

The sources said the ISI officials were shocked when FBI agents, who were following the leads after the March 17 terrorist attack on an Islamabad church, produced before them the photographs of the six Al-Qaida terrorists named above.

Some 50 Al-Qaida activists were arrested last week during combined raids by the FBI and Pakistan’s security agencies in Lahore, Faislabad and Multan. Twenty of these were handed over to the US authorities at Jacobabad airbase on Sunday and were flown to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by a special US aircraft yesterday.

There are more than 500 Al-Qaida terrorists captured by the international coalition and 244 have already been camping in Guanatanamo Bay where the US authorities have employed 400 Filipino labourers to construct small bases where they would be interrogated at length.

Meanwhile there was another bomb blast in south Waziristan in Pakistan yesterday in which two persons were killed and 12 injured. This also appears to be the handiwork of Al-Qaida activists who have been crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and regrouping in that area.Back

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