ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has set up an elite military force to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives in the country's remote tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, the president was quoted as saying yesterday.
But President Gen Pervez Musharraf dismissed reports that an operation by the new commando force last weekend in the border regions of north-western Pakistan was a hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Speculation over the al-Qaeda leader's whereabouts has grown after video images of him and his No 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, hiking on a mountainside were broadcast by the Arabic satellite network Al-Jazeera on the eve of the second anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks against the United States.
The CIA said on Friday it was impossible to determine when the tape was made.
Some al-Qaeda and Taliban holdouts are believed to be sheltering in the Pakistani tribal regions, after fleeing the US-led bombing in Afghanistan that ousted the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001 for harbouring Osama and his followers.
“We know some people are hiding in tribal areas ... and we are after them,'' Musharraf told the The News in an interview.
“All anti-national elements are on the hit-list of this force and especially foreign terrorists hiding in these areas are being dug out.'' Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said yesterday that he would visit India next month but surging violence in disputed Kashmir cast fresh doubts on tentative peace moves between the South Asian rivals.
Kasuri said that he planned to invite Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to a regional summit here in January.
Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, which nearly went to war for a fourth time last year, have improved slightly in recent months but India has linked fresh talks to an end to attacks by Islamic rebels fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. – Agencies