FBI believes Hekmatyar, Osama were in Chitral: report

Islamabad, March 14, IRNA -- Much before the arrest of top al-Qaeda man, Sheikh Khalid Muhammad, US agents reportedly conducted an intelligence-gathering exercise in northern Pakistani town of Chitral to locate the venue of a scheduled meeting between Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, reports say.

The FBI operatives in the country had got a wind that a secret meeting had been scheduled between bin Laden and Hizb-e-Islami chief somewhere in the Chitral district, according to daily The News.

To this end, a two-member FBI advance team arrived in Chitral from Peshawar, along with the Pakistan intelligence ISI sleuths and went ahead to locate the place of the suspected meeting.

The FBI was fully convinced that both the men had been scheduled to meet there to chalk out modalities for a joint attack against the US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Soon after touching the soil of Chitral, the FBI team, comprised of a male and a female operative, conducted a ground inspection drive to ascertain the suitability of the area for a commando operation to get hold of both their prized catch at the time of their scheduled meeting.

The visiting FBI operators, attired in traditional Afghan dresses, combed various areas in Chitral in a double-cabin black vehicle. But after remaining in Chitral for quite some days, the operation had to be abandoned owing to the failure of the US agencies to trace the venue of the meeting.

It is said that both the men might have crossed over to Afghanistan through Nooristan.

Informed quarters claimed that though the operation had been called off, the FBI was still convinced that both of its wanted men, or at least Hekmatyar, had been holed up somewhere in Chitral.

The FBI team conducted this operation acting on their own information, while their Pakistani counterparts had never been convinced that either of the two men was hiding somewhere in Chitral.

After remaining off the scenes since the capture of Kabul by Taliban in 1996, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar resurfaced in October, 2001, whenthe Taliban regime offered him and other Pashtun Mujahideen commanders like Maulvi Younis Khalis and Maulvi Nabi Mohammadi to join them for foiling the US-sponsored drive in Afghanistan. It is believed that the Pashtun commanders had, in fact, accepted the offer.

Hekmatyar tried to convince the Pashtun community that US-led forces wanted to impose a change on Afghanistan by establishing an alliance between secular King Zahir Shah and the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance.

The US administration has initiated a massive manhunt for Hekmatyar, besides the ongoing pursuit of its most wanted man, bin Laden. Hekmatyar is being termed by the US a very dangerous man. The Bush administration recently ordered the assets of his organization be frozen.

Two weeks back, Pakistan Interior Minister Seyed Faisal Saleh Hayat categorically denied that Hekmatyar was in Pakistan.

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