- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

QUETTA, Pakistan Faqueer Mohammed Rohani says he has no interest in the $25 million reward for helping to find Osama bin Laden, but he's ready to tell the Americans where to look.
He borrowed a piece of paper and began drawing an illustrated map of an approach to a narrow mountain pass, up a crystal-clear stream that flows between cliffs with caves on both sides.
"The complex was under my control when we were fighting Russia. I left the area when the Soviets pulled out, but I still know everyone who lives there," said Mr. Rohani. "You can see Osama's two sons walking around, and I'm convinced Osama lives there."
Mr. Rohani now serves as law and order minister in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and the surrounding Nangarhar Province a government formed by tribal leaders nearly two weeks ago after they persuaded the Taliban to leave.
During the 1980s, he fought against the Soviet Union, alongside another guerrilla commander, Abdul Haq, who entered Afghanistan in late September in an attempt to oust the Taliban only to be captured and executed.
"We started the [anti-Soviet] jihad together. We had no weapons and we slept together with the one blanket we had between us," he said.
One of his first tasks in the new government is to find the killers of four Western journalists who were ambushed and killed last week on the road from Jalalabad to the capital of Kabul. The killers remain at large and the road remains off-limits to foreigners.
"Until this case is solved, people will have this fear that this is a lawless place," he said.
Yesterday, Mr. Rohani traveled from Jalalabad to the southern border city of Quetta to discuss attempts by local tribal chiefs and tribal commanders to remove the Taliban from their nearby stronghold of Kandahar, where they are making a last stand.
Taliban officials have said bin Laden, the man blamed for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, is no longer in areas they control and that they are no longer in contact with their former "guest." Two weeks ago, the Taliban held 90 percent of Afghanistan.
Now the Taliban are desperately attempting to hang on to Kandahar and nearby mountains. Jalalabad served as a hub of bin Laden's guerrilla camps, where tens of thousands of Arabs, Chechens and militants from other nations trained as fighters for his al Qaeda terrorist group.
As many as 3,000 Arabs are believed to be holed up in Tora Bora, a fortresslike network of caves about 30 miles south of Jalalabad equipped running water and domelike rooms that have been likened by visitors to a hotel.
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, named the area around Tora Bora on Tuesday as one of two regions where the United States is concentrating its search for bin Laden. The other is around Kandahar in the southwest.
"These are the two areas we are paying very, very careful attention to," Gen. Franks said at his Florida headquarters, citing intelligence reports.
Mr. Rohan said he believed bin Laden was hiding at a place he called Melova, which he said is about 5 miles west of Tora Bora and just 15 miles north of the Pakistan border.
"If the Americans want to catch him, they should consult with the people living there. Everyone knows about him, but they are afraid of him. He doesn't come out. He minimizes his activities and lives like a very ordinary person," said Mr. Rohani.
Reminded that he could collect $25 million from the U.S. government if his information proved correct, he shook his head sideways with a sigh that turned into a chuckle.
"Money isn't everything," he said.
He said the United States would gain a great deal by consulting with leaders in eastern Afghanistan in the search for bin Laden.
"We eat food with our fingers to the mouth. Americans wave food around on forks before putting it in their mouth. Why do Americans take such a roundabout way to do something?" he said.
He then offered some additional tidbits to indicate that the world's most wanted man is still nearby: In recent days, bin Laden's two boys have been seen in the area. Mr. Rohani said he saw them at the governor's mansion in Jalalabad on Nov. 15, from which they departed just moments before a 15-bus convoy of Western journalists arrived.
Bin Laden himself visited the governor's mansion on Nov. 8, six days before the Taliban fled the area, where he spoke and said his prayers.
During a recent trip to Jalalabad, locals would point to the towering White Mountains, a range that runs east and west at the southern horizon, and whisper that he was hiding somewhere up there.
Officials in the new government are confident that bin Laden will be captured soon.
"Don't be too concerned. Wherever he is, he will be found. Osama is not living in the sky. He is living on the earth," Mohammed Zaman, a senior minister in the new Jalalabad government, recently told reporters.


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