Pakistan sent a group of high-ranking military officers to Afghanistan today to demand the Taliban government hand over the accused Osama bin Laden and his top associates to the United States or face almost certain U.S. military action. The group is led by one of the top officers in Pakistan’s military intelligence wing, which is thought to have unique intelligence on bin Laden’s operations in Afghanistan and his whereabouts. But Pakistani officials cautioned that the chance of the Taliban bowing to the American demand is slim. The Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has already said in a defiant, war-like radio speech on Friday, he believed handing over bin Laden would not spare Afghanistan from a U.S. attack. The Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, agreed to relay the ultimatum after days of intensive discussions with U.S. officials. General Musharraf reportedly assured President Bush, in a telephone call on Saturday, that Pakistan would allow the use of its airspace and airfields if needed, as well as full access to Pakistani intelligence on bin Laden. According to the Pakistani officials, U.S. officials had told General Musharraf’s government that Washington would use every lever, short of war, to punish Pakistan unless it cooperated. General Musharraf was said to have made a number of demands in return for Pakistan’s cooperation, including an end to economic sanctions imposed by Washington after Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, the lifting of an American ban on weapon sales, a pledge that Washington would assist Pakistan’s battered economy by encouraging generous treatment by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and a shift in Pakistan’s favor in its dispute with India over the Kashmir region. Meanwhile, Pakistani civilians gathered to protest their government’s collaboration with the United States.
Tens of thousands of Afghans are streaming out of major cities and headed toward the borders with Pakistan and Iran amid fears the United States is preparing to unleash a war on the land that has harbored Osama bin Laden. Iran has sealed its border with Afghanistan. Taliban officials of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban movement have also started to flee the capital Kabul. Yesterday, the Taliban ordered all foreigners out, saying their safety could no longer be guaranteed. Those who couldn’t leave were bracing for war, stocking up on food, as prices soared and the Afghan currency slid. Meanwhile, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, summoned religious scholars to the capital to discuss waging a jihad, a holy war, against the U.S. Nearly a thousand elders and Islamic scholars from across Afghanistan are expected to attend the meeting tomorrow.
More than 3,000 U.S. Marines and sailors rehearsed helicopter and ship-to-shore landings off East Timor Sunday amid expectations of a revenge strike over the terror attacks on New York and Washington. The task force from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron One had been due to disembark troops for humanitarian work in Dili, the capital of, and Suai and Oecussi enclave in Indonesian West Timor. Instead, three amphibious ships, led by the 40,000-ton U.S.S. Peleliu, stayed off the north coast of the capital, practicing naval and air maneuvers with Harrier jets, helicopters and landing craft. Before two passenger jets slammed into the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center, and a third into the Pentagon in Washington, the war ships were on a routine, six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf. U.S. Army spokesperson, Major Paul van Breemen, told Reuters in Dili, the task force is due to sail for the Oecussi enclave today to deliver humanitarian supplies before heading to Singapore. He said, “After that, I am not really sure they will go, but they are part of a much bigger force.”
Thousands of emergency workers continue to comb through the rubble of what once was the World Trade Center.
Bush administration officials said yesterday they’re considering lifting a 25-year-old ban on U.S. involvement in foreign assassinations and loosening restrictions on FBI surveillance. They said the Justice Department plans to send a wide-ranging set of proposals to Capitol Hill this week that would include more power to conduct wiretaps, detain foreigners and track money-laundering cases. Vice President Cheney said yesterday that CIA field officers may be allowed to recruit and pay overseas agents linked to terrorist groups and human rights abuses, saying it’s necessary to infiltrate suspected terrorist cells. In addition, Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he’ll introduce a counterterrorism package next week that will create a counterterrorism czar inside the White House and establish authority for the CIA to recruit unsavory agents. And Secretary of State Colin Powell says the administration is reviewing an executive order issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976 that bans U.S. personnel from engaging in or conspiring to engage in assassinations. Some intelligence and terrorism experts have advocated assassinating Osama bin Laden. The exiled Saudi millionaire, who lives in hiding in Afghanistan, has been named the prime suspect in last week’s attacks. The Senate last week approved legislation that would make it easier for the FBI to get warrants for electronic surveillance of computer transmissions. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, called the measure overly broad and an encroachment on civil liberties. He said, quote, “We have to be careful that, in our horror and revulsion over this horrendous and terrible act, we don’t start giving away the freedoms that make us different from terrorists.” Several Democrats said many senators did not know exactly what they were voting on and supported the measure in their determination to condemn terrorism.
European support for U.S.-led retaliation to last week’s attacks on New York and Washington has shown signs of faltering as leaders strike a range of nuanced positions, some at odds with Washington’s. Although the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, called for a grand international coalition to fight against this plague of terrorism, leading politicians in France, Germany and Italy expressed reservations about the U.S. response, though German leaders are themselves divided. The term “war” is inappropriate, said Italian defense minister Antonio Martino, echoing view expressed across Italy’s spectrum. Germany’s president, Johannes Rau, doubted that his country’s troops would take part in any armed response, suggesting they would play a role in providing logistical support to NATO’s response. Russian defense officials have also qualified their initial signs of solidarity with the U.S. regarding military action. The defense minister ruled out launching attacks on Afghanistan from bordering former Soviet republics, and the chief of staff said Russia would not participate militarily. Spain, let, like the U.S., by a right-wing administration, has given one of the strongest signals of support.
This just in: an Afghan taxi driver was left paralyzed after a racist attack in London.
Four people are now being held as “material witnesses” as the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation continues its huge investigation into Tuesday’s attacks. Details of the latest arrests are not clear, but it’s understood they relate specifically to the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. In addition to the arrests, 25 other people have been taken into custody on alleged immigration violations. The FBI has about 4,000 agents working on 40,000 leads.
Racist attacks against Arabs or people of Arabic descent have increased around the world. In addition to the Afghan taxi driver being reported by BBC to have been paralyzed after an attack in London, over the last few days in New York, a caller threatened to harm hundreds of students in an Islamic school. In Texas, a mosque was firebombed. In Wyoming, an angry group of shoppers chased a woman and her children from a Wal-Mart. In Bridgeview, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, police stopped 300 marchers as they tried to march on a mosque. Around the nation, Muslim and Arab communities say they are being targeted, and the anger is nationwide. India said yesterday it’s asked the United States to take steps to prevent attacks on Sikhs living in the United States after last week’s attacks on Washington and New York.