Saturday, September 11, 2004
While the American miliary is claiming no progress in the on-again, off-again manhunt for the perpetrator of the 9/11 massacres --
The trail has gone cold in the hunt for suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden three years after the audacious attacks, but the al-Qaeda chief and his No. 2 are still orchestrating strikes like the recent suicide car bombing of a U.S. security firm in Kabul, a top American commander said Saturday.-- B. Raman of the Hindustan Times is wondering why Osama, who released video messages on September 10, 2002, and September 10, 2003, decided this year to forego his annual ritual:
Maj. Gen. Eric Olson told The Associated Press the military had not intercepted any radio traffic or instructions from either bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. But he said the involvement of well-trained foreign fighters in attacks near the Pakistani border convinced him that the fugitive leaders were pulling the strings.
I kept awake the whole of last night waiting for the expected message of Osama but, intriguingly, no such message has come till the time of the writing of this article (5 AM Indian Standard Time on September 11, 2004).
Instead, a message attributed to Ayman al-Zawahiri, his No.2, has been disseminated by Al Jazeera on September 9,2004. In it, he said: “The Americans are hiding in their trenches. The defeat of US-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is only a matter of time. The Americans were between two fires. If they continue they will bleed to death, and if they withdraw they lose everything.”
It is difficult to establish the authenticity of the message and the date on which it was recorded though some analysts feel it must have been recorded after the end of June, 2004, since it refers to the interim government in Iraq. Even though the message was telecast two days before the third anniversary of 9/11, there is nothing in it to indicate that it was recorded specifically to coincide with the third anniversary of 9/11 . . . .
It may be recalled that I have been reporting since the beginning of 2002 that Osama suffered a splinter injury during the US air strikes at Tora Bora post 9/11 which affected his speech and that he underwent medical treatment at the Binori madrasa of Karachi till August, 2002, when he disappeared from there. Thereafter, while messages attributed to him continued to keep coming, there was not a single report from human sources, who claimed to have seen him. However, sections of the Pakistani media had claimed that after his arrest at Rawalpindi in March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) had told the Pakistani authorities that Osama was alive and that he had met him a few weeks before his arrest in the tribal areas of Balochistan. This is, however, not corroborated by the report of the US National Commission, which had gone into the 9/11 terrorist strikes.
The absence of an anniversary homage to the terrorists of the 9/11 operation by Osama is interpreted by some as an indicator that either he is already in the custody of the US or Pakistan and will be produced before the world just before the polling day in the US or that he is dead or that his health has deteriorated aggravating the speech disability reportedly suffered by him due to the sharpnel injury. There is, however, no evidence to corroborate any of these interpretations. He must be presumed to be alive and free till there is evidence to the contrary.