Al-Qaeda, Taliban chiefs hiding in Pakistan - US official

Updated on Feb 09, 2008 08:25 AM IST
A senior US official says, Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar are hiding in Pak, posing a "huge challenge" to the security of the country & Afghanistan.
HT Image
HT Image
AFP | ByP Parameswaran, Washington

Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar and their top commanders are hiding in Pakistan, posing a "huge challenge" to the security of the country and neighboring Afghanistan, a senior US administration official said on Friday.

"There is no question that the iconic leaders of Al-Qaeda -- (Ayman al-) Zawahiri, bin Laden ... are in the tribal areas of Pakistan," the official said at a media briefing.

"We believe that the Taliban's shura (consultation) council leaders led by Mullah Omar reside in Quetta in Pakistan," he said, referring to the capital of rugged Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan.

The sanctuaries were not only helping Taliban fight the insurgency against Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration, which is backed by US and NATO troops, but also posing a threat to Pakistan and beyond central Asia, the official said.

"There is a threat to the east into (Pakistan), in the west into Afghanistan and there is threat beyond Central Asia to the extent that Al-Qaeda has reach," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Just as Mullah Omar is giving strategic direction for the Taliban from Quetta, the Al-Qaeda senior leadership is in the FATA doing its planning," he said.

Pakistan's federally administrated tribal areas (FATA) borders Afghanistan.

It is among the clearest statements by the United States on the location of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the presence of bin Laden or Omar in its territory. Washington has placed multi-million dollar rewards for their heads.

The Taliban was ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001, after the September 11 terror attacks masterminded by bin Laden, who was provided sanctuary by the extremist regime in Kabul at that time.

More than six years after the ouster, US and NATO-led troops are still waging an uphill battle against the Taliban.

The US official said the United States had seen clear links between the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the Pashtun group, an ethnic minority mostly living along the troubled Afghan-Pakistani border.

"We also know that there are very clear Pashtun tribal links up through the FATA, especially in north and south Waziristan, where Pashtuns who live in Pakistan are supporting Pashtuns, who are fighting in Afghanistan.

"In some cases, they are the one and same people -- they live in Pakistan, they commute to the fight, they fight for a while in Afghanistan and retreat back into safe haven inside Waziristan," the official said.

He said that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda over the last six months had not only taken up their fight from their "safe haven" west into Afghanistan but also into the east, into the areas of Pakistan itself.

Underscoring concerns over the militant groups' logistical gains was the December assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, a city where the army has its headquarters, about seven miles from the capital Islamabad, he said.

CIA Director Michael Hayden said last month that suspected Al-Qaeda militants and allies of Pakistani tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud were behind Bhutto's murder and warned of a "newly active alliance" between Pakistani and international terrorists against President Pervez Musharraf's administration.

"Now you have a Pashtun-based insurgency that is fighting to regain control of Afghanistan, retaining safe haven, protecting its safe haven in the FATA and in some cases has now declared open hostilities with the Pakistani government as well," the US official said.

"So, you have got this sort of layering of insurgencies here that really makes this both geographically, politically and militarily a very complex setting," he said. "It is a huge challenge."

The official also said that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, her British counterpart David Miliband and Karzai had discussed in Kabul this week the appointment of a new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan.

Karzai had earlier refused to endorse senior British politician Paddy Ashdown, who was also the international community's former envoy to Bosnia.

"We are looking for someone who can work well inside the UN structure, someone who can bring coherence to this extremely complex mission and someone who can serve as Karzai's teammate, partner," the official said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • A bank employee leaves the Federal Bank of Lebanon, after being held hostage by an armed customer demanding the return of his bank deposits, in the capital Beirut's Hamra street.

    Hostage standoff at Beirut bank ends with gunman's arrest

    A gunman demanding a Beirut bank let Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, a 42-year-old food-delivery driver withdraw his trapped savings to pay his father's medical bills took up to 10 people hostage in a seven-hour standoff Thursday before surrendering in exchange for what a family lawyer said was $35,000 of his money. A 42-year-old food-delivery driver, Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, was promptly arrested and taken away by police as he walked out of the bank. Some bystanders hailed him as a hero.

  • Nunay Mohamed, 25, who fled the drought-stricken Lower Shabelle area, holds her one-year old malnourished child at a makeshift camp for the displaced on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. (File image)

    Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years displaces 1 million people

    Somalia's worst drought in more than 40 years has internally displaced 1 million people since the dry conditions struck in January 2021, according to the United Nations. This year alone, an estimated 755,000 people fled their homes in search of water, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement on its website.

  • File photo of Sri Lanka's then president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

    Ex-Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in Thailand

    Former Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in Thailand Thursday evening following his departure from Singapore. Rajapaksa was granted entry into Thailand following a request from the Sri Lankan government, NewsWire reported. He left Singapore on Thursday after nearly a month's stay in Singapore. Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced the official resignation of Rajapaksa on July 15. Sri Lanka has been facing its worst economic crisis since its independence.

  • Chinese Yuan Wang 5 military vessel has the ability to map ocean beds and track satellites of adversary nations.

    Chinese vessel won't dock at Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port as scheduled: Report

    China's high-tech Chinese research vessel, which was to dock at Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port, won't reach there as scheduled, according to a media report on Thursday, citing the port authorities. Newsfirst.lk website reported that the Harbour Master for the Hambantota Port said no vessel can enter the port without his permission. It said the Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship 'Yuan Wang 5' will not reach Hambantota Port on Thursday.

  • A customer pumps gas at an Exxon gas station in Miami.

    US gasoline prices fall below $4 for first time since March

    The average price of US retail gasoline fell below $4 per gallon on Thursday for the first time in months, giving some relief to drivers in the world's largest consumer of the fuel. The national average price for regular unleaded gas fell to $3.990 a gallon on Thursday, according to the American Automobile Association. The latest price drop may help President Joe Biden's administration and Democrats in Congress during November's midterm elections.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, August 12, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now