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HVK Archives: India tops Osama bin Laden's hit-list

India tops Osama bin Laden's hit-list - The Indian Express

Gaurav C Sawant ()
November 24, 1998

Title: India tops Osama bin Laden's hit-list
Author: Gaurav C Sawant
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: November 24, 1998

India tops the priority list of countries targeted by Osama bin
Laden. The USA is second, followed by United Kingdom and Israel.
A recent encounter between the Army and Afghan infiltrators near
the Haji Pir pass in the Pir Panjal ranges and the material
recovered from their possession has revealed this startling

In the first week of November, an Army unit engaged in
counterinsurgency operations in the Pir Panjal ranges received
intelligence reports of Afghan mercenaries trying to sneak in
through the pass. An operation was launched to nab them. "Five
of them were killed in an encounter. And from their possession
we found photographs of Osama bin Laden and his message to the
mercenaries to free Kashmir," says Colonel B N Singh, who
commands the unit. The Army also found rice, pulses, dried
mutton, sugar, spices and medicines.

The medicines, which included Paracetamol and Brufen, were found
to have been manufactured at Ferro Pharmaceuticals Laboratory,
356-A, 1/9 Islamabad and Korangi Industrial Area, Karachi.

Unexploded bombs defused by the Army and live hand-grenades had
markings of Pakistani ordnance depots. For the first time, the
Army has also noticed a shift m the stance of the mercenaries.

Not only have the skirmishes with the Pakistan army increased on
the Line of Control (LoC) but the number of well-trained
mercenaries slipping in during the skirmishes have also

Cards with photographs of Osama bin Laden, which the mercenaries
were carrying, said that after India, USA, UK and Israel had to
be taught a lesson. "There have also been radio intercepts of
conversations between these mercenaries in which Laden's name
figures. It appears that he is some kind of a cult figure for
them and they fight in his name. Our intelligence agencies are
trying to fathom the extent of his involvement," says a senior
Army official at the Line of Control.

"To say these Afghan mercenaries are well-armed would be an
understatement. They have the best equipment available in the
world, including AK-47 assault rifles fixed with silencers, Pika
guns, shoulder-held rocket launchers and Kenwood wireless sets
with secret codes. And they are loaded with cash," says
Brigadier A S Sekhon, Commander of 93 Infantry Brigades.

Colonel B N Singh's force killed 10 mercenaries in two
encounters in the Pir Panjal ranges and seized Rs 79,000 and Rs
31,000 each from their possession "apart from a travellers
cheque, worth Rs 50,000 drawn in the name of Muslim Commercial
Bank, Karachi," the Colonel adds.

Brigadier Sekhon during a display of confiscated weapons said a
lot of weapons with Russian markings, like rocket launchers,
have also found their way into India, "When the erstwhile USSR
pulled out of Afghanistan, it left behind its, weapons and these
Afghan mercenaries have brought them to India," he said.

With the Army having tightened the noose around terrorism in the
Valley, the mercenaries have shifted focus to the Poonch-Rajouri
sector. "An important reason for this is that the Pir Panjal
ranges are porous. They walk in and from there can simply walk
across to Gulmarg. It is a two-night-long journey. For these
battle hardened mercenaries the lure of Rs 5 lakh (per
assignment in India) is a lucrative one. From the Norpur pass
they get to Gulmarg," says Colonel V K Salivati, commanding
officer of a unit in Poonch.

Explaining why the mercenaries carry huge amounts with them,
Colonel Singh says that because the mercenaries harass the local
population and sexual assault women, the local population does
not want to help them. So they carry money to buy food and
shelter and get route guidance.

A soldier was killed in early October trying to rescue a young
woman in Loran village from the clutches of the Afghan
mercenaries. "That brought the locals very dose to us. In fact,
it was after this that a local gave us information about the
five mercenaries holed up in an abandoned house and we killed
them," adds Major Kumar, another officer posted at Loran.

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