HAS OSAMA bin Laden been sighted? A report with the government of India says al Qaeda's leadership was recently spotted near Darkot, a Pakistani village near the border with Afghanistan's Wakhan corridor. Government sources say the report was made less than a fortnight ago.
Till now, bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri were thought to be in the rugged mountains of Pakistan, along Afghanistan's southeast border. There is now the possibility that they have shifted to the Wakhan corridor. Sticking out of northeastern Afghanistan, the corridor (a strip of land) is wedged between Tajikistan, Pakistan and the part of PoK known as Northern Areas. In 2003, bin Laden was thought to be in Chitral, in Gilgit, PoK.
The latest sighting assumes importance in view of the recently thwarted terror plot in the UK. Since then, the US and UK have been investigating al Qaeda's role in the plot, and the Pakistani link. Sources say there has been institutionalised exchange of information between Western governments and India.
The main link to the UK terror plot is Rashid Rauf, who was recently arrested in Pakistan at the behest of Britain's MI5.
Rauf is said to be linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammad which, along with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, has targeted India. New Delhi believes that he could provide substantial leads in the hunt for al Qaeda's core leadership.
The last time a top al Qaeda terrorist was sighted, on January 15, the Americans had attacked.