Tuesday, June 07, 2005

GLOBAL JIHAD: Hot on the trail of al-Qaeda

In Shabkadar and Bajur especially, the Pakistani military increased its presence and conducted exhaustive search operations. These activities did not meet with any resistance as the local tribals, though sympathetic to Arab fighters, would not put themselves in a conflict situation with the Pakistani army. (This in stark contrast with the South and North Waziristan tribal areas, where similar military intervention has met with fierce and bloody resistance.) Al-Qaeda sympathizers, nevertheless, might have spread the word in advance of the operations. According to analysis based on information extracted from detainees and ground checks in the Pakistani tribal areas, bin Laden was likely recently in Nooristan in Afghanistan for meetings with close aides. Nooristan is a rugged, remote mountainous region where the population is Salafi. The area was previously the stronghold of a famous commander of the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s, Abdul Aziz Nooristani, who later also fought in Bosnia. Veteran Afghan mujahideen leader and former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also dwelled in Nooristan for some time after returning from exile in Iran in 2002.

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