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Pak nukes may fall in terror hands: US
Armed forces’ chief Mike Mullen says Qaida head al-Zawahiri will be hunted down

Al-Qaida’s new chief Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al-Qaida’s new chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

Washington, June 17
The USA today expressed apprehension that the Pakistan nuclear weapons and technology might fall into the hands of terrorists and thus stressed on having the lines of communications open with Islamabad.

It also vowed to hunt down and kill new Al-Qaida “emir” Ayman al-Zawahiri like it did in the case of his predecessor Osama bin Laden.

“It’s a country with an awful lot of terrorists on that border,” Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a joint Pentagon news conference with Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

“Things that I fear in the future, it’s the proliferation of that technology, and it’s the opportunity and the potential that it could fall into the hands of terrorists, many of whom are alive and well and seek that in that region. And that’s of great interest, I think, to our country and certainly to the rest of the world,” Mullen said in response to a question.

Gates argued that the US strategy against terrorism was succeeding and Pakistan was playing a contributory role in that.

“It is important to remember that they have 140,000 troops on that border, that at a minimum are stirring things up. They basically cleared South Waziristan and Swat. But even their presence and manoeuvring and so on creates uncertainty,” he noted.

Regarding the new Qaida chief, Mullen said: “He (Zawahiri) and his organisation still threaten us. As we did both seek to capture and kill and succeed in killing bin Laden, we certainly do or will do the same thing with Zawahiri.”

Mullen yesterday said he was not surprised by the news reports that Zawahiri, who is carrying a $25 million reward on his head, has succeeded bin Laden.

Gates said there was some indication that the Al-Qaida was worried because of the way the US went after Osama. Their suspicion was that the Pakistanis might have been involved in that and they might betray them, as well.

“Clearly, the lines of communication through Pakistan are critical for our operations in Afghanistan. So I think all of these things are important. Just in terms of regional stability, there is the reality that Pakistan is a country that has a number of nuclear weapons. And, again, keeping those lines of communication open, it seems to me, is very important,” Gates said in his final news conference as the Defence Secretary.

Noting that the long history of the US-Pakistan relationship has had its ebbs and flows, he said: “They have regarded over the decades that we have abandoned them on at least four occasions, two wars with India, when the Soviets left Afghanistan, and then after the enforcement of the Pressler amendment.”

“It is a relationship both sides have had to work on. We need each other more than just in the context of Afghanistan. Pakistan is an important player in terms of regional stability and in terms of Central Asia. So my view is that this is a relationship where we just need to keep working at it,” he said. — PTI





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