- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

The manhunt for Osama bin Laden, which has focused over the past two weeks on the isolated mountains of southwestern Pakistan, has expanded to include that country's rugged northern region near Peshawar along the Afghanistan border.
This is the same region where the massive hunt for the fugitive terrorist was concentrated last year.
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement authorities yesterday said several suspected al Qaeda terrorists have been spotted or detained in the area over the past few months, hiding among a patchwork of sympathizers in Peshawar, the capital and largest city of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
Bin Laden, the officials said, initially fled into the Peshawar area in December 2001 after surviving a massive U.S. military assault at his Tora Bora base in Afghanistan. He reportedly left to meet with ousted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar near Kandahar, Pakistan, and recently was believed to be hiding in the Baluchistan province of southwestern Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.
The search follows the March 1 arrest of al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, near Islamabad, who reportedly told members of Pakistan's secretive Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), as well as the CIA and the FBI conflicting stories on whether bin Laden was dead or alive, and on whether he had met with him after the September 11 attacks.
Pakistani intelligence officials, in an unusual briefing for foreign journalists last week, said Mohammed acknowledged during three days of interrogation at a "safe house" after his arrest that he met with bin Laden in December, though he did not say where.
U.S. and Pakistani officials retrieved numerous secret al Qaeda documents and other information during Mohammed's arrest, some of which reportedly included the names of al Qaeda operatives in the United States scattered throughout the country in so-called sleeper cells.
Included in the haul was a laptop computer used by Mohammed, which the officials said contained the names of at least a dozen hiding places, or "safe houses," located along the Pakistan-Afghan border used by bin Laden and his supporters.
An encryption code used to protect the computer's contents was broken by CIA analysts, the officials said.
The officials said there was "some concern" that ISI was leaking information to the al Qaeda network about pending raids on suspected bin Laden hide-outs.
U.S. intelligence officials have long tied ISI to al Qaeda and the Taliban and two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the panel, along with its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, recently raised similar concerns.
During a hearing last month, the two senators raised concerns about ISI's renewed help to Taliban and al Qaeda activists seeking to infiltrate Afghanistan to destabilize the pro-American regime of President Hamid Karzai.
However, the senators said that they believed ISI was carrying on with this activity without the knowledge of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Mr. Lugar noted that elements within ISI that backed the Taliban during the past decade were trying to regain influence in Afghanistan by facilitating the infiltration of activists across the border.
The officials said, without elaboration, that there also were concerns about the numerous conflicting reports on the hunt for bin Laden and that efforts were under way to identify the sources.
Mohammed, 37, described as al Qaeda's third-highest ranking leader, was captured in a house owned by Ahmed Abdul Qadoos, a member of Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious party that holds the third-largest voting bloc in Pakistan's parliament.
Rawalpindi is home to Pakistan's military headquarters and many residents are former military officers.
Also taken into custody was Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawawsi, who reportedly played a pivotal role in financing the September 11 attacks. U.S. intelligence officials said al-Hawawsi wired substantial sums of money for flight training and living expenses beginning in June 2000 to several of the hijackers from banks in the United Arab Emirates.

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