Is Bin Laden in Peshawar?

Published January 8th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

The United States began its extensive air strikes on Afghanistan in October, with the intent of completely destroying the Al Qaeda terrorist group and capturing its leader Osama bin Laden “dead or alive”. America is blaming the group and its leader of being behind the terrorist attacks, which were carried out in the United States on September 11, 2001 and shattered the country as well as the entire world. 

 

Since the attacks and following military operations, nearly four months have passed. True – the Taliban militia regime suffered a dramatic collapse and the Al Qaeda group in Afghanistan was destroyed, but the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden still remain a mystery.  

 

In the cloudy mist covering Bin Laden’s present location, many theories have been circulating the globe and filling media report pages. Afghan interim government officials believe that Bin Laden is no longer in their war-torn country. 

 

So where is the most wanted man in the world? 

 

Statements made by members of the new Afghan government, indicating that Osama Bin Laden is in Pakistan, possibly even in Peshawar, have led the focus of search and interrogation to the country. 

 

According to the Iranian daily Tehran Times, last Friday, Mohammad Fahim, Afghan Interim Defense Minister, stated that Bin Laden had left Afghanistan for the Pakistan border city of Peshawar. Just one day passed, and Yunis Qanooni, the Interior Minister, asserted on Iranian television that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was helping Osama Bin Laden avoid capture. Qanooni added that the ISI was even monitoring Bin Laden's trips to Pakistan. 

 

Tehran Times adds that on Sunday, Aminullah Zadran, Border Affairs Minister told AFP in Kabul, that he sent agents to the border to investigate Pakistan Intelligence’s assistance to the Saudi born Bin Laden.  

 

Mohammad Habeel, Defense Ministry spokesman claimed that the leader of Al-Qaeda was using Peshawar as his base. He noted that "Our intelligence is absolutely accurate. We even have the names of those Taliban commanders who helped Osama get to the other side of the border", according to the Tehran based paper.  

 

In any case, the situation has brought renewed U.S. pressure on Pakistan to assist in the hunt for Bin Laden. According to the Federal Government’s instructions, the State Bank of Pakistan froze assets of individuals who it was thought that they could supply Bin Laden with funds. A bank official confirmed the freezing of the funds, and added that this was being "kept quiet". 

 

On Tuesday, a Pakistani spokesman officially contradicted an Urdo daily news report, published on December 31, which claimed Bin Laden is staying with Soofi Mohammad, Head of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi. The spokesman said that it was not possible for Soofi to give shelter, when he himself was under house arrest. The daily also indicated that Bin Laden had crossed the Tora Bora hills on November 19 and is hiding in the tribal area of Bajaur. The spokesman, in response, urged the paper to practice responsible journalism.  

 

So is Osama Bin Laden actually in Pakistan, or perhaps in Iran? 

 

Despite the clear evidence suggesting Bin Laden is in Pakistan, it is worth to note that some media reports are spreading rumors that Al Qaeda leader has fled to a different country - Iran. There is no clear-cut evidence regarding this theory and it seems as though there are different motives behind this “propaganda”.  

 

Tehran Times cites that Abdullah Tawheedi, Deputy Intelligence Minister of the Afghan Interim Government, said in a recent IRNA interview in Kabul that Al-Qaeda members were the “real rulers” of Afghanistan, and that the Taliban were merely a “tool” played by them. The reactionary militias, who were never even recognized by Tehran, created serious problems for the Islamic Republic.  

 

They brutally killed Iranian diplomats and a reporter in Mazar-i-Sharif, upon capturing the Northern Afghani city. During their rule in Afghanistan, they stirred up insecurity on the Iranian border by using Iranian territory for the transit of drugs to Gulf countries, Central Asia and Europe. Iranian Law Enforcement Forces, who were trying to stop the flow of narcotics, suffered many losses inflicted on them by the militia group, according to the Tehran Times

 

Therefore, it is obvious that rumors of Al Qaeda chief hiding in Iran ought to be immediately rejected, because he headed a group that harmed Iranian interests.  

 

So why are such rumors being spread?  

 

It seems the answer lays in a conflict unfolding between two Asian nuclear rivals. Apparently, there is a direct connection between the rumors and the current mounting tension between Pakistan and India. 

 

According to the Tehran Times, Islamabad is currently facing tremendous pressure from New Delhi because of the recent attack on the Indian Parliament, blamed on Pakistan-based militant groups. Pakistan feels it might need American support in a likely military confrontation with India. However, as long as there are assumptions that Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, it is obvious that Islamabad cannot expect to receive any support from Washington, which is making strong efforts to capture the Saudi dissident.  

 

Perhaps the Afghan Defense Minister’s remark, as well as other statements made by Afghan officials, regarding Bin Laden being in Pakistan, was deliberately made. Maybe statements made were intended to embarrass Pakistan at such a sensitive time, given the fact that wide ranges of elements in the Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance have close relations with India.  

 

Whatever the reasons are behind the different theories regarding Bin Laden’s moves and hiding venues, it is clear that the world, as one, is closely monitoring the situation and eager to find out where the elusive leader is.  

 

There is growing world-wide speculation that Al-Qaeda boss might have already been killed or perhaps escaped from the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. 

 

His fate is of utmost interest to the entire international community, but as of now, his whereabouts are just one big riddle, eager to be solved. (Albawaba.com) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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