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US court gets ?proof? of Pak terror camps

india Updated: Aug 02, 2006 01:42 IST
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Proof seems to have surfaced finally. If the United States had any doubts about the existence of terrorist training camps in Pakistan, it now has sufficient evidence following the confessions of a Pakistani American arrested in California last year and examination of a set of satellite images. Earlier, Pakistan had wanted “evidence” of terrorist activity on its soil from India after the Mumbai serial blasts. The disclosures that have put paid to Pakistan’s claims to the contrary could be used by India to turn the heat on Islamabad during Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher’s impending visit to New Delhi.

Knocking the bottom out of Pakistan’s contentions, a senior analyst of the US Department of Defence, told a trial court in California that there is a 70% probability of the existence of a militant training camp in Balakot. Testifying in the trial of 23-year-old Hamid Hayat, defence expert Eric Benn noted that the structures and trail in the remote Balakot terrain fit the “signature” of “militant training”. Benn initially estimated a 50% possibility on terror training at Balakot, but revised it to 70% after viewing Hamid’s videotaped confession. Although he didn’t detect any formal weapons training in the satellite images, he stressed that this did not mean that those activities were not taking    place.

The jury was shown part of Hamid’s confession during which he is reported to have given a description of the place of training in Balakot. A she put it, he left a bus, got directions and walked three or four miles up a mountain by flashlight. 

“It is kind of a jungle,” he said. Benn, according to media accounts, said Hamid also mentioned a camp near Islamabad and “something in the vicinity” of his family village.  Hamid’s sentence has been postponed by four months to November, while his father, Umer Hayat, 48, is being retried after the first round ended in a hung jury, reports said. 

Hamid and his father were arrested in Lodi, California in June last year as part of an FBI crackdown on Al Qaeda sleeper cells in the US.  It later turned out that Hamid had attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, but both he and his father lied about it to authorities. During subsequent interrogations, Hamid confessed to FBI agents that he did attend training camps — not one, but two and both of them in Balakot.

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