TIMES NEWS NETWORK - TUESDAY,NOVEMBER 02, 2004
NEW DELHI: Heightened activity in the Ladakh region by the Aviation Research Centre, RAW's specialised reconnaissance agency, has fuelled worldwide speculation about a fresh sighting of the highest-value target of the global war on terror,Osama bin Laden.
Highly-placed defence sources say that the Ladakh region has seen unusual number of sorties by ARC aircraft. While they were tight-lipped about the purpose of the scouting missions, the ARC's sudden activities could be trigger for the feverish speculation in the American media that Bin Laden could be lurking in PoK. The speculation coincided with the wildcard that Osama played on the eve of the US elections, coming out with a tape aimed at influencing the American polls on Tuesday. The tape delivered to the Islamabad bureau of Arabic network Al-Jazeera reignited the widely-held view that he was holed up in Pakistan.
Speculative reports have attributed bin Laden's presence to different locales in Pakistan. Karachi in Pakistan was last mentioned as a comfortable urban hideout for him. And there's speculation on his presence in Indian-controlled territory, although this is not new. The former commander of US Central Command Tommy Franks wrote in the New York Times last week that even in late 2001, there was intelligence speculation that he might be hiding in Kashmir. That was the time when the US had pounded the Tora Bora region, probably even inflicting injury on Bin Laden forcing him to flee.
Indian intelligence officials scoffed at the latest speculation which has hit the headlines on US news channels. "Unadulterated rubbish," they said. The US administration, too, denied the reports. Said an official in Washington: "It's a puzzling story... we don't think there's anything to it." But the denials are simply not killing the speculation possibly because observers don't expect a confirmation even if the reports were to be correct. Counter-terror fighters close to their quarry are unlikely to advertise the fact, said a military expert. An Israeli counter-terrorist website Debka reported recently that Indian forces went on "red alert" after Indian Air Force sighted Bin Laden recently inTibet-Ladakh region close to the North-Eastern corner of Pakistan bordering India and China.