- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

The United States yesterday named Osama bin Laden for the first time as a prime suspect in Tuesday's terror attacks and turned up the pressure on Pakistan to help it pursue the Saudi fugitive in his Afghan hideout.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also laid out a three-step approach for exacting justice for the attacks that killed thousands of people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:
The United States will present the world with clear evidence of who was responsible, Mr. Powell said. It will then "rip up" the terror network responsible and finally it will lead a "global assault" against terrorism generally.
In Afghanistan, foreign diplomats and aid workers fled the capital Kabul and residents began to dig trenches for fear of a U.S. bombardment.
Arabs, many of them engaged in anti-Western training groups, also left the city and dispersed to the countryside, reports said.
A senior State Department official yesterday handed Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi a list of items calling for help to crush the terrorist networks believed operating across its northern border in Afghanistan, Mr. Powell said at a State Department briefing.
Asked why the United States was focused on Pakistan, Mr. Powell said, "When you look at the list of candidates [for blame in Tuesday's attacks], one resides in that region."
Asked whether that "candidate" was bin Laden, he confirmed that it was. It was the first time a senior U.S. official has publicly named the Saudi militant as a likely perpetrator.
"We are assembling the evidence that will tell us, in a way that the world will fully concur with us, who is responsible for this," Mr. Powell said. "And when we have done that, we will announce it.
"And at that point, we will go after that group, that network, and those who have harbored, supported and aided that network, to rip the network up.
"And when we're through with that network, we will continue with a global assault against terrorism in general," he said.
The secretary also said U.S. officials will fly to Moscow next week to seek support from Russia, which controls a second approach through Central Asia to Afghanistan, where bin Laden remains an honored guest.
Russian troops already patrol the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
"I'm sure they will be helpful on many things," Mr. Powell said of the Russians. "It's their neighborhood. They do have a great deal of experience in Afghanistan, and we will draw on all of that experience."
Mr. Powell dismissed a report early yesterday that Afghanistan's radical Islamic Taliban government had placed bin Laden under house arrest.
Afghan officials also denied any change in his status as guest. One said the Saudi was innocent and that Jews had caused the terrorist acts to divide America from Muslims.
"The incidents which took place in America are testimony to Osama bin Laden's innocence because where are Osama's pilots and where were they trained?" said the Afghan leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
"Blaming Osama without any rhyme or reason is a separate thing and a move by the [Western] intelligence agencies to escape their own failure."
Mr. Powell said the United States has ways of contacting the Taliban but has not yet done so because "we also want to make sure exactly what it is we wish to present to them as items of discussion and not just general conversations."
Pakistan, which has been accused by the State Department of allowing terrorist groups to recruit and train on its territory, is becoming a front-line state in what the Bush administration says will be a long campaign to uproot terrorism around the world.
"We have provided to the Pakistani government a specific list of things that we think would be useful for them to work on with us," Mr. Powell said.
The list includes requests for help on "information, networks [of terrorists] and support," a State Department official said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Powell later spoke for about 10 minutes with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and "received once again a commitment from Musharraf to work with us."
"Right now, we have friendly relations with Pakistan," Mr. Powell said. "And so I will approach this as if I'm talking to a friend, and let a friend know what we would like to see happen in order to improve the situation in the region and the situation in the world. And I hope that the president will respond as a friend. Our initial indications are that he will."
Pakistan's ambassador, Mrs. Lodhi, on Wednesday conveyed to the State Department Gen. Musharraf's message that Pakistan "strongly condemns the barbaric act of terrorism against the U.S. and shares the grief of the American people."
An embassy statement said she also "reiterated President Musharraf's assurance to President Bush of Pakistan's unstinted cooperation in the fight against terrorism."


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