Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Pakistan assists CIA in hunt for bin Laden

December 5, 2001


— Pakistan has agreed to step up cooperation with the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which is now centering on the rugged mountains along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said Tuesday.

The agreement followed weekend meetings with CIA Director George Tenet, who also urged Pakistan to crack down on religious schools seen as training grounds for Islamic militants. U.S. officials confirmed Tenet's visit, but refused to discuss the content of his meetings.

Pakistani intelligence officials said Pakistani officials, including President Pervez Musharraf, told Tenet their government would enhance cooperation with the CIA, joining the hunt for bin Laden and giving American spies access to seven arrested members of bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

In return, Tenet said the United States would provide surveillance equipment, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Despite Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, only a few of the country's Inter-Service Intelligence agents have been sharing information with their CIA counterparts. The agency's director, Lt. Gen. Ehsanul Haq, told Tenet that would change, the officials said.

Haq told Tenet his agency would join the hunt for bin Laden possibly in joint operations with the CIA and would increase security along the border to prevent the terrorist suspect from fleeing, they said.

Tenet asked Musharraf to crack down on Islamic schools involved in terrorism. Some 640,000 students are in Pakistan's 17,000 Islamic schools. Thousands of those students went to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, and most of the Taliban leadership emerged from Pakistani religious schools.

The officials said Musharraf agreed, but will do so in phases to avoid resistance by the nation's Islamic leaders. The first phase, they said, would be to expel foreign students without proper visas.

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