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Osama calling shots from NWFP: Report

A US-based think tank said Al-Qaeda leadership was headquartered in Dir and Swat districts, and possibly, the Malakand area of NWFP.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 16:46 IST

Al-Qaeda leadership is headquartered in two districts of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province given the confluence of certain "unique ground conditions" in these tribal areas,a US-based strategic think tank has claimed.

"Both (Ayman) al Zawhiri and Osama bin Laden are in the rural western areas of the NWFP and frequently attend tribal gatherings there," the Strategic Forecasting Inc (Stratfor) claimed in its latest report.

"This indicates that they feel secure with - and have influence over - the local Pashtuns, whose support they need if they are to remain secure," the report added.

It said the Al-Qaeda leadership was headquartered in Dir and Swat districts, and possibly, the Malakand area of NWFP.

Observing that global attention had been focussed on North and South Waziristan areas of the province due to the ongoing unrest there, it said Dir bordered the Bajaur agency of Pakistan, which in turn was close to Afghanistan's Kunar province, "a hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity".

"Al Zawhiri's reference to 'four brothers' present in Damadola village during the January 13 US air strike includes Abu Obaidah al Masri, an Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative ... Al Masri's presence in Bajaur underscores the region's importance as an Al-Qaeda staging base for operations in Afghanistan".

The detailed Stratfor report said neither bin Laden nor al Zawhiri would risk staying close to Afghan border in FATA "as it would leave them vulnerable to a US air strike from Afghan territory.

On the contrary, they would want to remain as deep within Pakistani territory as possible", where the US might not venture into and described the region as "the best hiding place then can find in all of Pakistan".

First Published: Feb 03, 2006 15:13 IST