US: Bin Laden may be in Pakistan

Parts of Pakistan are a safe haven for militants and the country is the probable hiding place of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a top US counter-terrorism official has said during a visit to Afghanistan.

    The US believes Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan

    Henry Crumpton, the US ambassador in charge of counter-terrorism, on Saturday lauded Pakistan for arresting "hundreds and hundreds" of al-Qaeda figures but said the country needed to do more.


    "Has Pakistan done enough? I think the answer is no. I have conveyed that to them, other US officials have conveyed that to them," Crumpton said at the US Embassy in Kabul after talks with Afghan officials.


    The chief spokesman for Pakistan's army, Major-General Shaukat Sultan, dismissed Crumpton's assertion that Pakistan was not doing enough.


    "It is totally absurd," he said. "No one has conveyed this thing to Pakistan, and if someone claims so, it is absurd."


    Crumpton praised Pakistan's capture Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, a top al-Qaeda strategist with a $5 million bounty on his head, in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in November.


    Lawless regions


    Pakistan has also launched repeated counter-terrorism operations in its lawless tribal regions close to the Afghan border over the past two years, in which hundreds of fighters and soldiers have died.


    "Our expectation is that they will continue to make progress, and we know that it's difficult," he said. Pakistan "can't remain a safe haven for enemy forces, and right now parts of Pakistan are indeed that".


    Crumpton: Parts of Pakistan are
    safe haven for fighters

    Crumpton said US officials continue to believe that bin Laden is somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistani border, adding that there was a "higher probability" bin Laden was on the Pakistani side than the Afghan one.


    "If we knew exactly where bin Laden was, we'd go get him," Crumpton said. "But we're very confident he's along the Pakistan-Afghan border somewhere."


    A senior security official in Islamabad said that Crumpton, during meetings with Pakistani intelligence and government officials this week, praised Pakistan for its efforts to hunt down fighters.


    "I am surprised that he praised us here, and is saying something else in Kabul," the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record.


    Order to kill


    In other news, fighters battling the Pakistani army in the Waziristan tribal region have distributed leaflets in the name of bin Laden, calling for the assassination of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president.


    "I also pray to the one and the only Almighty Allah to teach a telling lesson to Bush, Musharraf and their forces, and give a chance to the lions of Islam to kill the slave of Bush in Pakistan," reads the leaflet.


    Musharraf has survived several
    assassination attempts

    Musharraf has survived several al-Qaeda assassination attempts by Pakistani jihadi groups since siding with the US in a global "war on terrorism" following the 9/11 attacks on the US.


    Printed in Urdu, the leaflet began with an introduction in Arabic saying that it was a message from bin Laden calling on Muslims everywhere to aid the tribes people under attack from Pakistani forces in Waziristan.


    Its signoff read "Mujahideen Emirates Islamia Afghanistan", or the Holy Warriors of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.


    The leaflet was circulated in Miranshah and Mir Ali, two towns in North Waziristan, where clashes between pro-Taliban militant tribesmen and security forces have worsened since early March after helicopter gunships smashed a compound used by fighters, mostly from Chechnya, Central Asia and Afghanistan.


    Lull in fighting


    There has been a lull in fighting for the past few days, and an unofficial truce is expected to hold through to the middle of next week as thousands of Muslim preachers and scholars have converged on Miranshah to hold a congregation over several days.


    The congregation was organised by Tablighi Jamaat - a largely apolitical Lahore-based missionary group whose followers spread Islam throughout the world - and its main event passed off without incident on Saturday.


    "I also pray to the one and the only Almighty Allah to teach a telling lesson to Bush, Musharraf and their forces, and give a chance to the lions of Islam to kill the slave of Bush in Pakistan"

    Holy Warriors of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan

    Bin Laden is believed to have passed through North Waziristan during his flight from Afghanistan in late 2001, but most security analysts believe that while he is probably somewhere in Pakistan he is unlikely to be in the tribal areas.


    Military officials say they have killed 324 Muslim fighters in North Waziristan and lost 56 soldiers since the middle of last year.


    A Pakistani intelligence officer told Reuters last week there were up to 1,000 foreign fighters still roaming around North Waziristan.

    The military campaign switched to North Waziristan last year from South Waziristan.


    Embarrassingly for the Pakistani authorities, self-avowed former Taliban fighters are now imposing their law in large parts of South Waziristan and recruiting fighters to sneak across the border to wage a guerrilla war against US-led and government forces in Afghanistan.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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