måndag 19 november 2007

Usama bin Ladin siktad i Chitral

Terrorfursten bin Ladin omgiven av medlemmar ur "Svarta gardet" (fotot antas vara från 2003)

Den globala terrororganisationen al-Qaida håller definitivt på att förlora kriget på det slagfält som man för ett par år sedan definierade som det centralaste i det globala jihad, nämligen Irak. Förlusterna på "västfronten" kompenseras emellertid genom att man omgrupperar och kraftsamlar i Centralasien. Trycket på regeringarna i Afghanistan och Pakistan är starkare än på länge, men när allt kommer till kritan handlar detta fenomen om en faktisk reträtt för den radikala islamismens vidkommande. Jag tror kanske inte att det är korrekt att kalla jihadisternas framstötar i Northwest Frontier Province för en motsvarighet till nazisternas Ardenneroffensiv, 1944, men tanken känns frestande, på något vis...

Ahmad Farooq, den avhoppade talibanen, som sedan länge givit italiensk media exklusiv, men svårkontrollerad, information, har en del att säga om Usama bin Ladins förehavanden just nu. Han lär flytta runt i trakterna av Chitral, där Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan och Kina gränsar till varandra, ständigt omgiven av sina 20 livvakter ur det s.k. "Svarta gardet". Jag citerar här in extenso från italienska medieföretaget ADN-Kronos:

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding in the remote mountains on the Afghani-Pakistani border and moving constantly to avoid detection by intelligence agencies, according to a Taliban sympathiser.

Ahmad Farooq, a Pakistani Pashtun has told the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, that bin Laden had been moving from village to village in the area from Chitral to the "corridor of Waqan", the mountainous Hindu Kush region of Pakistan bordering Tajikstan and China.

It is a rare account of bin Laden's life since he masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. But it is impossible to verify the accuracy of the account.

Farooq told the Italian daily's magazine, that bin Laden was surrounded by about 20 armed men and he moved whenever he felt particularly threatened."

There are always 20 armed men with him, free from satellite telephones so that they did not risk detection by the Americans," he told the newspaper.

"Not far from him there are two other similar groups that move in parallel. Osama passes from one to the other often many times in a week. No-one knows which group he is with at any time."

Farooq said bin Laden had also managed to hide in the Pakistan-China border area of Karakorum, an uninhabited remote area, because it is guarded by Chinese troops.

"He lives like a monk," Farooq said. "His health is not good. He is 50 years old. But he looks much older. He relies continutally on medicine for his weak kidneys and has a breathing apparatus.

"He almost died a few years ago from bronchitis that developed into pneumonia."

Farooq conducted the interview in Imam Dheray, in the Swat Valley where there has been widespread bloody conflict between the Pakistani security forces and the fugitive rebel leader and radical cleric, Mullah Fazlullah, and his supporters in recent weeks.

Farooq said he decided to speak to the newspaper since he felt indebted to Italian members of the Red Cross who had come to the aid of him and other members of the Taliban when thousands were killed and injured in the US offensive in Afghanistan in 2001.

He said Fazlullah had been with them and had commanded 11,000 Pakistani volunteers in the fighting.

Farooq gave many details about where bin Laden had been since September 11 2001 - hiding in the Afghan province of Khost until it became too dangerous for him.

Then, he said, the al-Qaeda leader moved to the Chitral region, in northern Pakistan.

"I saw him for the last time on 17 September 2003 not far from Dir, my village," he said. "His caravan was moving slowly. They told me he was not well. They didn't seem worried about being detected by the Americans.

"Instead, they were looking for medicines and a warm place for the night. In that area winter arrives early. With the first snow fall the passes are closed at more than 4,000 metres and you have to wait for spring.

"I think they only went to China in summer, when the paths are clear."

A senior official from NATO's security services told the Italian daily's magazine such an account of bin Laden's activities was "quite possible".

He said "We believe he remained in the mountains in the zones of Chitral and Swat. The detail about China was however new."

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