U.S. bombs Afghan targets but Omar still at large
By Jeremy Page
Monday January 7, 1:54 AM
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. jets bombed eastern Afghanistan in pursuit of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and his ally Osama bin Laden and the country's new leader said on Sunday he was determined to arrest the cleric.
The chairman of Afghanistan's interim administration, Hamid Karzai, said Mullah Omar was still at large.
Asked by journalists during a visit to a Kabul orphanage where Omar was, Karzai replied: "I don't know, we are looking for him, we will arrest him."
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said U.S. aircraft had bombed several targets in eastern Afghanistan's Spinghar mountain range during the night, flying at least six sorties over the area.
As the United States continued its military campaign, Afghanistan Defence Minister General Mohammad Fahim left on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE was one of only three countries to recognise the Taliban, but its official news agency gave no information on the purpose or length of Fahim's visit, which had not been previously announced.
The U.S. jets were believed to be targeting suspected remnants of bin Laden's al Qaeda network, blamed by the United States for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington and sheltered by Mullah Omar's fundamentalist Taliban militia.
The report could not be independently confirmed and there was no word of casualties.
But while bin Laden, main target of the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, and his sponsor Mullah Omar remained at large, Karzai's administration took more steps to establish control over the rugged and wild land.
French troops securing Kabul's battle-scarred international airport said its crater-filled runway should be clear of mines and ready for jumbo jets to land within 10 days, after explosives experts had spent three days checking the terminal building for mines and booby traps before starting work.
The Baghran region to the north of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, an area long defiant of the rule of the centre, also appeared to be coming under government control after reports Mullah Omar had fled the district on a motorcycle.
Even during the 1996-2001 rule of the Taliban, which imposed its stringent interpretation of Islam on most of the country, remote and mountainous Baghran held out, with heavily armed local chieftains retaining considerable independence.
One was Raees-e-Baghran, in effective control of Baghran and the surrounding region.
As suspicions rose that Omar was hiding in his fiefdom -- a charge denied by locals who say he has no support in the area and is blamed for a litany of suffering -- Raees-e-Baghran has started cooperating with local authorities.
Following a three-day trip by the pro-Karzai governor of Helmand Province, Mullah Sher Mohammad Akhandzada, and apparently fearing possible attacks by the United States, he agreed to hand over a huge stockpile of weapons.
"The people from Baghran gave back their weapons and ammunition, and we recovered almost 200 tonnes of ammunition and some 80 or 90 big weapons," a spokesman for the governor of a neighbouring province told Reuters near Raees-e-Baghan's heartland on Saturday.
Akhandzada's delegation returned convinced Mullah Omar was not in Baghran, but the deputy police chief of Kandahar province, next door to Helmand, said he thought he was in the area and would not escape.
Speaking in Chaman in southwestern Pakistan on the Afghan border, Mohammad Anwar told Reuters that Afghan intelligence agents were on the prowl around the area where Omar is believed to be hiding, and dismissed the possibility that he could leave.
"Our people have surrounded the area. It is impossible for Mullah Omar to flee to Chechnya or any other country," he said.
"We will soon catch Omar," Anwar said.
While Omar continues to ride his luck, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan was not so fortunate. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef was deported on Saturday, and immediately detained by the U.S. military.
"We have him detained in Afghanistan," an official, who asked not to be identified, said of the most senior -- and best known -- Taliban to be taken in for questioning so far.
By Raz Mohammad and Charles Aldinger
Sunday January 6, 6:23 PM
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military detained the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan but its primary targets, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden, continued to elude Afghan and U.S. forces.
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's principal spokesman during the war in Afghanistan and the vanquished movement's highest-ranking official to be captured, joined hundreds of detainees facing interrogation by U.S. officials seeking intelligence for their war on terrorism.
But Mullah Omar, the reclusive cleric who once ruled over almost all of Afghanistan, and bin Laden, accused by Washington of plotting the September 11 attacks that killed some 3,000 people, remained at large.
According to a report from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, Mullah Omar escaped on a motorcycle as anti-Taliban forces closed in on a mountainous area in southern Afghanistan where he was believed hiding.
The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on Sunday that U.S. aircraft had bombed several targets suspected of links to bin Laden's al Qaeda network in the Spinghar mountain range of eastern Afghanistan.
The Pakistan-based AIP said the jets flew at least six sorties over the area on Saturday night. The region was also being combed by U.S. ground troops and Afghan tribal forces.
The report could not be independently confirmed.
The new U.S. envoy to Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the U.S. bombing campaign, launched on October 7, would continue until its aims were met, despite concern among Afghanistan's new anti-Taliban leaders at civilian casualties.
ZAEEF DEPORTED, DETAINED BY U.S. FORCES
Zaeef, a bespectacled 34-year-old ethnic Pashtun who had sought political asylum in Pakistan after that country broke diplomatic ties with the Taliban, was deported back to his home country and immediately detained by U.S. forces.
A total of 307 Taliban and al Qaeda members are now under interrogation.
U.S. forces have also taken custody of Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, who ran some of bin Laden's training camps. Detained in Kandahar, he became the highest-ranking al Qaeda member captured in the war.
The detainees are sure to face questions about the whereabouts of both bin Laden and Mullah Omar, who apparently eluded capture a day after the new rulers in Kabul said they felt close to capturing him at Baghran, 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Kandahar.
Adding to the confusion, a spokesman for Kandahar's governor, Gul Agha, said Mullah Omar may not even have been in Baghran, where local tribal elders believed he had sought refuge after surrendering Kandahar on December 7.
"It's not an issue that really concerns us whether he's on a motorbike, on a bike, on a donkey or on foot," Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said.
"We know that he is on the run and that he eventually will be captured, either dead or alive."
Mullah Omar, 42, imposed his uncompromising brand of Islam on the country for five years and sheltered bin Laden. But support for his Taliban movement melted under U.S. air strikes and he has been on the run for the past month.
The governor of the southerly Helmand province, Mullah Sher Mohammad Akhandzada, said almost 200 tonnes of ammunition and dozens of large weapons had been recovered from Baghran fighters during a three-day tour of the region accompanied by U.S. troops.
But he said three local leaders who handed in their weapons had made clear to him that Mullah Omar was not in the area.
The other focus of military activity is close to the Pakistani border in the east, where U.S. forces have been searching the caves and tunnel complexes of the Tora Bora mountains where al Qaeda die-hards made a stand last month.
Despite an unconfirmed report of civilian casualties in the latest bombing raids and disquiet among Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai's U.N.-backed government at possible civilian deaths, Khalilzad, the new U.S. envoy, said the air strikes would go on.
"Messages I have received, based on my telephone discussions with Afghan leaders, is that they are very supportive of the campaign," he said in Kabul on Saturday.
Farther afield in Bush's war on terrorism, police in Germany, where several of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks had lived, arrested a suspected al Qaeda member.
Malaysia and Singapore said they had arrested several suspected militant Islamists who may be linked to bin Laden.
A Saudi newspaper said on Sunday that Pakistan was holding more than 200 Saudi Arabians caught fleeing from Afghanistan and any of them with links to al Qaeda would be handed over to the Americans.
The Okaz daily quoted Pakistan Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider as saying:"If it is proven that any of them are members of the al Qaeda organisation, then they will be handed over to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a bizarre reminder of the September attacks, a small plane flown by a lone 15-year-old student pilot crashed into an office high-rise in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday. Officials said he had taken off from a nearby airport without clearance and ignored Coast Guard signals to land.
The pilot was killed but nobody else was hurt in an incident that left the plane lodged high in the building.
Sunday January 6, 5:52 PM
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's Muslim leaders on Sunday voiced support for the government's arrests of 15 suspected militants, including several who trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, saying those were extremists.
The suspects were apprehended using laws allowing detention without trial between December 9 and 24, the government said on Saturday.
Singapore's announcement came a day after Malaysia disclosed that it also since December 9 had locked up 13 suspects with possible links to the elusive Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect in the U.S. attacks, and his al Qaeda network.
"Any people that are linked to terrorism who have potential to be a threat to the stability of Singapore...this is something that we certainly would want to support the government's action," Ameerali Abdeali, secretary general of a Muslim community group, the Islamic Fellowship Association, told Reuters on Sunday.
Searches of the homes and offices of the suspects yielded detailed information on bomb construction, photographs and video footage of target surveillance, al Qaeda-linked material as well as tampered passports and forged immigration stamps.
"You should be able to separate and demarcate what is terrorism and what Islam and the Malay/Muslim community is about," Abdullah Tarmugi, Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs, was quoted by the Sunday Times newspaper as saying.
Other Muslim leaders noted that those arrested were not part of the mainstream and should be "isolated and condemned".
Singapore has been beating the drum of harmony even harder since the September 11 attacks, stressing the need for tolerance among its Chinese, Malay and Indian communities.
Almost all of Singapore's 450,000 Malays are Muslim, making Islam the second largest religion after Buddhism.
While there are no signs of rising tension, Singapore is acutely aware of its giant Muslim neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and the threat of racial rifts following the attacks.
"In a multi-racial, multi-religious society like Singapore, we should never take our social cohesion for granted," Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tony Tan said on Saturday.
The parallel sweeps in Malaysia and Singapore, using laws allowing detention without trial, came a month after Southeast Asian leaders singed an accord during a regional summit in Brunei to join forces to stamp out cross-border terrorism.
Sunday January 6, 3:58 PM AFP
Foreign ministers of six central Asian states including China and Russia will meet in Beijing Monday to discuss developments in South Asia, specifically the situation in Afghanistan and the war against terrorism.
The meeting comes after Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in recent days warned his counterparts in the United States, India and Pakistan that simmering tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi could negatively influence the rehabilitation of Afghanistan.
On Monday, Tang will meet leaders from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the initial foreign ministers meeting of the fledgling Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Chinese officials said.
"This meeting will mainly center on the situation in Afghanistan, the international counter-terrorism campaign and the attack on the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism," foreign ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi was quoted by the People's Daily as saying.
Four of the ministers will hold a group meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin Monday afternoon, while Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will meet separately with the Chinese president, the officials said.
The ministers are also to prepare the next SCO summit scheduled for St Petersburg, Russia, in June.
The Shanghai group was formally established in June, but annual meetings of the "Shanghai Five" have taken place since 1996. Uzbekistan joined in June.
The group has worked to build confidence along common borders, reduce border troops in the region and cooperate against international terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism in the largely Muslim-dominated region.
The group also gives China and Russia a platform to cooperate internationally, with annual joint statements issued by the organization routinely jibing the superpower status of the United States and urging the establishment of a "multi-polar" post-Cold War world.
Since the formal announcement by the United States last month to unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, seen by Moscow and Beijing as the "corner stone of the global strategic balance," the two capitals have stepped up their military and strategic cooperation.
Last Thursday Moscow and Beijing signed a one billion US dollar contract for two destroyers for the Chinese navy, while on December 26 the sale of Russian anti-missile batteries to China for 400 million dollars was announced.
Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov arrives in the Chinese capital a few hours after the close of consultations between Russian and Chinese working groups who have been discussing the US decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty, the ITAR-TASS news agency noted.
The September 11 terrorist attacks on the US have also allowed Beijing and Moscow to step up efforts at eradicating domestic ethnic separatist and religious groups, much to the chagrin of international human rights groups.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch Sunday urged the six ministers to abide by international norms of human rights while combating terrorism in the region.
"The fight against terrorism should included steps to promote tolerance between different ethnic and religious groups," an open letter to the ministers from the group said.
"Repressive and abusive behavior by security forces only creates the conditions in which terrorists can build support."
The group condemned serious human rights violations on minority Uighur political activists and religious groups in western China's Xinjiang region and the torture and arbitrary arrest of civilians in Russia's Chechnya region.
Sunday January 6, 2:11 PM AFP
India's recession hit tea industry is hoping the export beverage could provide a boost to diplomatic ties with Kabul and help re-establish trade links with Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.
"Afghanistan is indeed a potential market for Indian tea and export of the beverage could not only help trade but is also expected to promote bilateral links between the two countries," said D. Chakrabarti, secretary general of the Indian Tea Association (ITA).
"We are examining the prospects in Afghanistan very seriously."
An expert team was engaged in preparing a draft, highlighting the potential of trade with Afghanistan under the direction of India's commerce ministry.
"We are yet to decide on the exact details of the volume of tea that could be exported to Afghanistan but we presume it will be quite substantial," Chakrabarti told journalists in Guwahati, capital of the tea producing northeastern state of Assam.
India's tea industry, reeling from a sharp plunge in prices, has decided to launch an aggressive marketing strategy to renew customer demand.
"The market scenario is alarmingly depressing as of now and we don't know how long the crisis will continue and what the future holds for planters," K.R. Bhagat, chairman of the Assam Branch of the ITA, said.
In the weekly auctions, tea failed to attract firm prices with huge stocks remaining unsold during the better part of last year.
A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of top quality Assam tea was selling at least 12 to 15 rupees (25 to 35 cents) lower than the amount it fetched three years ago.
India's tea production dropped from 870 million kilograms in 1998 to 823 million kilograms last year, while exports accounted for just 25 percent of the production.
Assam accounts for more than half of the total tea produced in India.
"The export scenario looks dismal as the markets are flooded with cheap quality teas from countries like Sri Lanka and Kenya," Robin Barthakur, secretary general of the ITA's Assam chapter, said.
"We are not getting into new markets although our focus is on the Middle East which is our traditional market."
Tea exports have also been affected due to escalalting miltary tensions with Pakistan.
"We had several outlets in Gujarat and Rajasthan through which tea was exported to Pakistan. But give the acrimonious relations between the two sides, export of tea has stopped totally," Chakrabarti said.
Monday January 7, 1:46 AM AFP
Afghan officials were confident of capturing the elusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, as US bombers pounded hills near the eastern city of Jalalabad in a bid to wipe out al-Qaeda stragglers.
US forces were questioning Abdul Salam Zaeef, the toppled Taliban regime's former ambassador to Pakistan, for information on Taliban leaders, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, his network of Muslim extremists, officials said.
In the first air strikes of 2002 against suspected al-Qaeda positions in eastern Afghanistan, waves of US bombers struck at the White Mountains south of Jalalabad overnight, the Afghan Islamic Press reported Sunday.
"They launched at least six attacks on the hills on suspicion that al-Qaeda fighters were hiding" there, it said.
The raids came amid suspicions that al-Qaeda forces could still be hiding in the hills of Tora Bora, bin Laden's last known hideout, where US troops and Afghan militia are still combing a warren of caves and tunnels.
A group of tribal elders from Paktia province, just south of the White Mountains, arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai to seek an end to the US air strikes.
"We are tired of the bombings," their leader, Eid Mohammad, told AFP. "Too many innocent people are being killed."
In the latest incident linked to the US drive to clean up the area, Mohammad said, "around 30" villagers were killed near the town of Khost.
In an incident on December 30, up to 100 civilians died in a raid on an ammunition dump just north of Gardez, the provincial capital, according to an Afghan minister.
Foreign ministry spokesman Omar Samad said Saturday that the civilian casualties were unfortunate, but "part of the war effort against terrorism."
Mullah Omar eluded some 5,000 Afghan troops poised last week to flush him out of his hideout near Baghran, in Helmand province east of Kandahar, amid negotiations for his surrender.
Samad vowed that Omar, wanted by the United States for harbouring bin Laden, the chief suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, would be "captured dead or alive."
Kandahar intelligence official Nasratullah Nasrat told AFP: "We know where he is, but I cannot tell you anything more."
The United States hopes Zaeef, the most visible spokesman of the Taliban until Pakistan stopped recognizing the regime after the November 13 fall of Kabul, will provide clues to bin Laden's whereabouts.
Zaeef, possibly the most senior Taliban official in US custody, is under interrogation aboard the USS Bataan, in the Arabian Sea.
He was taken into custody, a US official said, "to determine what he knows... that might be helpful in understanding the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda."
In all, the United States is holding 307 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon, but bin Laden and Omar remain at large.
No one seems to have any idea where bin Laden is, and there are conflicting theories on where Omar may have fled: some say he could have gone to his native Oruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, while others say he is in Pakistan.
Afghan intelligence sources say the reclusive Taliban leader, accompanied by four aides, was seen roaring off on a motorcycle just before forces in Baghran protecting him agreed to surrender.
Hopes that he would be captured were at their highest Thursday when a local Taliban leader said he would hand over Omar in exchange for a halt to the US bombing.
In Kabul, the British-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pursued its deployment to ensure the protection of the Karzai government.
By the end of January, the force should have reached its full strength of 4,500 troops, drawn mainly from western Europe, according to Major General John McColl, who is overseeing the deployment.
British military spokesman Major Guy Richardson said Berlin was expected to clear the way Sunday for the arrival Tuesday of the first German troops; 119 French soldiers were scheduled to fly out of a French base Sunday to join 113 others already based north of Kabul, a spokesman in Paris said.
In Kathmandu, at the end of a seven-nation South Asian summit, the leaders of India and Pakistan had brief, but apparently fruitless one-on-one talks amid simmering bilateral tensions -- an offshoot of the Afghan campaign.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had "a bilateral chat" of 10 to 15 minutes after the summit officially ended, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said.
She said she was in the room with the two leaders as they waited for their escorts and "jokingly said this is the right time for a bilateral summit -- then they started... speaking very animatedly."
"There were exchanges of courtesies, nothing more," Vajpayee told reporters."
"We are neighbors and we have had talks in the past," he later told a group of senior Nepali journalists, but complained: "All the member countries (at the summit)... denounced terrorism during the conference except one.
"If you look at the speech of President General Pervez Musharraf, terrorism has not been denounced," he said.
In his speech Saturday, Musharraf said Pakistan opposed terrorism, which should not be confused with "legitimate resistance" -- a reference to Islamabad-backed Muslim groups fighting India for control of the disputed state of Kashmir.
Pakistan rejects Indian claims that a 12-year-old insurgency in Kashmir is terrorism and accuses India of using excessive force in putting down the separatist movement.
A December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament, which New Delhi blames on Muslim extremists backed by Pakistani intelligence, brought the two countries to the brink of war last week.
Indian army sources said Sunday they shot down a Pakistani drone -- an unmanned spy plane -- that intruded into their airspace in Kashmir; India's Aaj Tak television said the incident sparked a heavy artillery exchange between troops massed on either side of the border.
But a Pakistani spokesman denied the report as "totally concocted, false and childish," claiming instead that India was trying to cover up the loss of one of its own drones.
Vajpayee and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met in New Delhi after the Indian leader returned from Kathmandu, signed a joint declaration meanwhile, condemning all who support and finance terrorism.
The statement equated the December 13 attack and the October 1 bombing of the Indian state legislature in Kashmir -- also blamed on Pakistan-based Muslim militants -- with the September 11 attacks.
Blair told reporters he believed India would resume a dialogue with Pakistan once the perceived threat of attack from the militant groups is eradicated.
The Muslim separatist insurgceny in Kashmir has claimed at least 35,000 lives since 1989.
Blair is scheduled to travel to Islamabad on Monday for talks with Musharraf at the end of a tour aimed at easing tensions
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India said its troops shot at an unmanned Pakistani spy plane in Himalayan Kashmir on Sunday as leaders of the nuclear rivals flew home from a regional summit no closer to easing fears of war.
An army spokesman said the plane was fired on in Indian airspace, but he could not say if it was hit or returned to Pakistan. The Press Trust of India said it was destroyed and the wreckage fell on Pakistan's side of Kashmir's ceasefire line.
Pakistan immediately denied losing a plane, instead saying an Indian spy plane had crashed in Indian Kashmir.
Troops from both armies exchanged mortar and machinegun fire on Sunday, killing at least three people in what has become an almost daily firefight since the December 13 attack on India's parliament that triggered the latest crisis.
Despite another handshake and exchanging pleasantries, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf left a summit of regional leaders in Nepal without making progress in easing tensions.
HANDSHAKE, BUT NO TALKS
The Kathmandu summit ended as it began, with a handshake between Vajpayee and Musharraf but no sign of talks between the old foes to defuse their dangerous military build-up.
Vajpayee told reporters he exchanged courtesies with Musharraf but "nothing significant was discussed" when they shook hands at the end of the summit of the seven-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Musharraf -- who stole the show on Saturday when he walked over to Vajpayee at the opening session and shook his hand -- was hopeful formal talks would happen, though no time has been set.
"They (tensions) may not have been eased, but they haven't worsened," Musharraf told a news conference after the summit.
"We had an informal interaction and we look forward to formalising the interaction in the future," he said.
India wants Pakistan to take more concrete action against Pakistani-based militants it blames for the parliament attack that killed 14, including the five assailants.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair met Vajpayee on Sunday and was due to head to Pakistan to meet Musharraf on Monday.
He said he believed India would talk with Pakistan if Musharraf rejected terrorism in all its forms.
"There is no doubt as to what needs to happen. There must be a complete rejection of terrorist acts and the support of them in any shape or form," he said after meeting Vajpayee.
"There is no halfway house here, and once it is clear that rejection is there, then I believe that India... is prepared to have a meaningful dialogue."
India and Pakistan, long-time foes, have amassed troops and artillery along the ceasefire line dividing Kashmir since the suicide attack on India's parliament.
India blamed two Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatist groups for the parliament attack, and has repeatedly demanded Islamabad end support to Muslim guerrillas fighting a holy war against Indian rule in Kashmir, Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state.
Under pressure from the United States, its new partner in the global war on terrorism, Pakistan has cracked down on the two groups and on Sunday detained more Islamic activists with police raiding mosques, homes and offices across the country.
Government officials say at least 100 people have been rounded up since the crackdown began last month, but representatives of the groups say several hundred have been detained.
Though no concrete steps were taken to defuse the crisis, the fact the leaders met, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries was a start.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told reporters contacts and conversations had taken place throughout the summit but these were exploratory.
Vajpayee told Nepali newspaper editors talks with Pakistan would resume in the future.
"We are neighbours and we've had talks in the past," Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of Nepal's Kantipur daily, quoted the Indian leader as saying. "The talks have stopped now. But they will take place in the future."
The military build-up is considered one of the most dangerous since both countries won independence from Britain in 1947. They have fought three wars since then, two of them over Kashmir.
On Saturday, six people, including two Indian soldiers, were injured in Indian Kashmir by fire from Pakistani troops, a defence official said. Pakistani officials said one man was injured and another killed overnight when Indian troops fired on villages in Pakistani Kashmir.
Washington has pressed both countries to pull back and said it would consider sending an envoy to help defuse the crisis.
The United States fears the standoff is distracting from its campaign in Afghanistan, but also concerned the conflict could ultimately lead to the world's first nuclear war.
Monday January 7, 12:20 AM AFP
US military aircraft scrambled to intercept a small airplane piloted by a 15-year-old that crashed into a Tampa, Florida skyscraper, killing the youth but causing no other casualties.
Although terrorism was discounted in the crash, investigators were baffled about what motivated the youngster -- identified as Charles Bishop of Palm Harbor, Florida -- to fly the plane without authorization, even flying into restricted airspace over the US command that directs the war in Afghanistan.
The US military immediately noted the unauthorized takeoff.
"The plane was tracked by three different radars right from the outset," said a defense official, who wished to remain unidentified.
Concern about the boy's intentions heightened when the Cessna entered restricted airspace over MacDill Air Force Base, home to the US Central Command, which directs the US war in Afghanistan and other facets of the anti-terrorism campaign, according to defense and police officials.
A Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was ordered to intercept the intruding aircraft, while a pair of National Guard F-15 fighter jets were dispatched off the Homestaed Air Reserve Station on Florida's east coast, the officials said.
"The fighters took off at about 5:16 pm (2216 GMT) in response to the incident and flew to Tampa," Captain Richard Bittner, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard, told AFP.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard helicopter successfully intercepted the Cessna but was unable to prevent the crash.
"It's hard to speculate about what the pilot was thinking, but it looks like he flew into the building intentionally," Coast Guard Lieutenant Patrick Bacher, the helicopter's co-pilot, later told reporters. "He seemed to head right for it (the building)."
Tampa police spokeswoman Kate Hughes told AFP that "terrorism is not suspected at this point," -- despite the incident's eerie similarities with the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington.
Numerous US government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are taking part in the probe.
According to police, the two-seat Cessna 172 aircraft crashed into the 42-story high Bank of America building at about 5:00 pm (2200 GMT), leaving a gaping hole on the 28th and 29th floors.
No fire was reported, but the crash severely damaged the offices of the law firm Schumaker, Loop and Kendrick.
Because of the weekend, the building was largely deserted but not entirely empty.
As of early Sunday, the mangled tail section of the plane was still dangling outside a broken window, with authorities trying to secure the fuselage and prevent it from falling to the ground.
The deadly crash capped a string of events investigators have yet to explain.
According to Hughes, Bishop -- a ninth-grade student from East Lake High School -- showed up for his flying lessons at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport on schedule
Sunday January 6, 9:06 PM
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani authorities have offered to free from prison the husband of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as long as he makes a plea bargain, The News newspaper reported on Sunday.
Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari were convicted of corruption in 1999 and she has lived in self-imposed exile since then, while Zardari has been in prison.
Bhutto, prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996, and Zardari both denied involvement in corruption. Last year the Supreme Court cancelled their convictions and ordered a retrial, which has yet to start.
The News said the anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau had offered to release Zardari if he made a plea bargain.
A spokesman for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said Zardari had rejected previous suggestions of a deal.
"Asif Ali Zardari has declined all under-hand deals. He does not believe in deals...and rejects that he was involved in corruption," party spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Reuters.
Babar said he did not know if the government had made a new offer to Zardari.
But as news of a possible plea bargain was being aired, police in North West Frontier Province detained a former senior member of Bhutto's party and chief minister of the province on his return to Pakistan on Sunday, police said.
Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao fled to Britain in January 2000 after being convicted on corruption charges. He was taken into custody in Peshawar after landing at the city's airport, a police official said.
The reported offer to free Zardari follows signs that President Pervez Musharraf is seeking to patch up relations with some of the country's mainstream political parties.
Musharraf, a former army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup, has recently appealed for political unity.
Referring to the U.S.-led war in neighbouring Afghanistan, which his government backs, Musharraf called on all Pakistanis to rise above political differences to meet "the most critical period of the country's history".
His decision to back the U.S. action in Afghanistan has infuriated hardline Islamic groups.
Bhutto has supported his decision to join the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism forged after the September 11 hijacked airliner attacks on the United States.
Musharraf also faces a crisis on Pakistan's eastern border, where India has amassed troops and is demanding Islamabad acts to end "cross-border terrorism" by Pakistan-based rebels fighting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir.
Musharraf has pledged to hold free elections by October.
Bhutto's PPP has urged him to end "politically motivated" anti-corruption accountability of politicians, free arrested party leaders and open dialogue with political parties.
India says it downed Pakistani spy plane
01/06/2002 - Updated 12:06 PM ET
JAMMU, India (AP) — Indian soldiers shot down an unmanned Pakistani spy plane that intruded into Indian air space in disputed Kashmir on Sunday, military officials said. Pakistani officials denied this.
The drone, which takes aerial photographs, was flying nearly 2.5 miles inside Indian territory in the Poonch sector along the India-Pakistan border when troops fired at it, an Indian army official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In Islamabad, Pakistani military officials said no Pakistani spy plane had been shot down.
"No Pakistani spy plane has been shot down by India in the Himalayan region of Kashmir," a senior military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another Pakistani military official suggested that India may have shot down a child's remote-control drone.
If confirmed, this would be the first such reported case since 1999, when Indian troops shot down an unmanned Pakistani surveillance plane in the western Gujarat state, soon after the Kargil armed conflict. The Atlantique aircraft had surveillance and strike capability. There were no casualties and the debris landed in Pakistan.
Poonch is about 150 miles northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The Indian official said the plane was seen going down Sunday and soldiers were scouring the mountainous area to locate the debris. It was also possible that a part of the debris could have fallen on the Pakistani side of the border, he said.
Eyewitnesses who saw the UAV — unmanned aerial vehicle — flying overhead said there was panic among Poonch residents, who thought war had broken out.
Since a Dec. 13 terrorist assault on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, India and Pakistan have amassed thousands of troops along the 1,100-mile border between the two nuclear-armed nations and are in a state of preparedness for war.
An Indian army spokesman said that the border had been quiet most of the day, but that after the drone was shot down, heavy mortar and artillery fire by both sides began along the border.
The spokesman said there were heavy casualties on the Pakistani side.
Islamic militants, some based in Pakistan, have been fighting Indian forces and carrying out attacks in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir for 12 years, hoping to end Indian rule. The attacks and fighting have killed tens of thousands of soldiers, rebels and civilians
CNN) -- Allied warplanes bombed positions near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan on Sunday, while U.S. forces tried to glean information from a pair of high-profile detainees.
U.S. officials said Mullah Abdul Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, was being held aboard the USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea, along with eight other detainees, including American Taliban fighter John Walker.
Zaeef -- detained Thursday by Pakistani authorities -- has been questioned over the past several days about the whereabouts of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
At the airport near Kandahar, U.S. Marines were guarding Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, a high-ranking al Qaeda leader believed to have run bin Laden's terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
Twenty-five more detainees were brought to the airport late Saturday, bringing to 300 the number of al Qaeda and Taliban held in U.S. military custody there.
Sunday's airstrikes were carried out by U.S. F-16s, combat helicopters and at least one B-52. They targeted a sparsely populated area near an intricate network of tunnels used by the mujahedeen who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
• The first German and Dutch troops will join the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan this week, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said Sunday. Seventy German and 30 Dutch soldiers will leave for Afghanistan on Tuesday to join British and French troops already in the country.
• Personnel from several U.S. military installations began deploying Sunday to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they will help establish a maximum-security detention facility for al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. The facility eventually will accommodate 2,000 prisoners.
• About 35 hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda leaders remain at large, interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Karzai said that Afghanistan is committed to bringing them to justice and that most of the 20,000 to 30,000 Taliban fighters had been allowed to return to their homes and pose no danger.
• German police said Sunday a man arrested on suspicion of being an al Qaeda member has no connection to the terrorist network. The Lebanese man, 27, was arrested Saturday in western Germany's Moenchengladbach with a false Italian passport and large quantities of European currencies. He originally was charged with belonging to an illegal organization but now is being held on charges related to his passport.
• Taliban supreme ruler Mullah Mohammed Omar remains at large, the deputy head of intelligence in Afghanistan's interim government said Saturday. Responding to reports that the reclusive Taliban leader had escaped approaching Afghan forces near Baghran, Abdullah Tawheedi said he would not comment on Omar's location until searches of that region are complete.
• The body of a U.S. Special Forces soldier who was killed in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan arrived Saturday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. A Defense Department memo identified the soldier as Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, of San Antonio, Texas.
• In a town hall meeting Saturday in Ontario, California, President Bush paid tribute to the slain Green Beret. "We mourn for Sgt. Nathan Chapman," Bush said. "We pray with his family for God's blessings on them. ... I can assure the parents and loved ones of Nathan Chapman that he lost his life for a cause that was just and important. And that cause is the security of the American people and that cause is the cause of freedom in a civilized world."
• Afghan authorities are questioning Rayes Abdul Wahid, a Taliban commander who gave himself up, about the location of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, an Afghan intelligence official said. Wahid is thought to have been protecting the Taliban leader, said Abdullah Tawheedi, deputy head of intelligence for Afghanistan's interim administration. The whereabouts of Omar remain a mystery, Tawheedi said Saturday. The official said that Afghan forces are focusing their search near Baghran in the southern province of Helmand.
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 5, 2002; Page A01
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Sayed Abdullah sat cross-legged on a thick carpet as dusk fell. He lit a kerosene lamp that hissed loudly, cutting the cold and darkness in his bare living room. He shifted his broken body, trying to find the position where he felt the least pain. There is always pain. He moved constantly for the next four hours, telling his story long into the night.
In a nation trying to heal after 22 years of war, Sayed's personal healing comes from talking. Taliban leaders are no longer around to tell their side of the story. But the truth of Sayed's tale was supported by interviews with his friends and family, his doctor and humanitarian workers, as well as by Taliban prison records. The most telling evidence is Sayed's scarred body.
The Taliban is on the run. But before the radical Islamic movement disappears down some dark alley of history, Sayed wants the world to know what Taliban enforcers did to him because they thought he was a Christian.
It began one afternoon late in 1999. About 15 Taliban soldiers carrying AK-47 assault rifles surrounded his house. Sayed was inside with his mother, his wife and his two little girls, then age 3 and 1.
Sayed remembers their leader saying: "We are suspicious of you. We want to ask you some questions."
Sayed couldn't imagine why. He led a good life. He was a 26-year-old father working in a medical supply warehouse of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He was smart and gregarious, he had learned English in school and he kept a library of 500 books. He loved European history. He had photos and short biographies of every U.S. president from Washington to Clinton. He was too poor to leave Kabul, but books freed his mind to explore the world.
The Taliban soldiers put him in a pickup truck and took him to the building that housed their Intelligence Division No. 1. They locked him in a tiny cell, not big enough for him to lie down. He sat in the dark on the wet floor, fearful but sure that the misunderstanding would soon sort itself out.
Hours later guards came and led him to a large room. He saw a table with metal legs and a wooden top, and next to it, a Taliban commander. And next to the table were Sayed's books -- his entire bookcase ripped off the wall of his house and carried there intact.
He felt a rush of fear.
Sayed says the Taliban commander held his two copies of the Bible, one in English and one in Dari, the main language of Afghanistan. Bibles were strictly forbidden by the Taliban.
"We have here a man who has converted from Islam to Christianity," the commander said. "Who are you working for? Which country? Which people?"
"I'm a good Muslim," Sayed said. "I have those books for information, for learning, not for changing religions. Everyone should know about other religions and other parts of the world."
The commander cut him off.
"Enough! If you won't talk to us now, you will later."
Several guards came in and forced Sayed face down on the table. They tied his hands and feet to its legs. Then they beat him with sticks and heavy plastic ropes, punching, pounding, whipping. Sayed says he endured two or three hours of it before he passed out.
Begging for Privilege to Kill
When he woke up, he was back in the tiny cell. It seemed to be daytime, although little light was in the cell. He hurt everywhere. Blood was on his face and his clothes. He was hungry and thirsty. He called out, but no one came.
Later a group of Taliban soldiers came to see him. They taunted him.
"Come and see what an important person we have," one said. "He converted from Islam to Christianity."
The Taliban, an extremist militia that seized power here in 1996, tried to turn Afghanistan into its version of a pure Islamic society. Its restrictions on women, its public executions and amputations, and its destruction of such Afghan cultural treasures as the centuries-old Buddhas carved into cliffs at Bamian were well known to the outside world, which responded with outrage and sanctions.
But only after the Taliban's fall is its practice of harsh, systematic torture becoming clear. Behind closed doors here in Kabul, in the southern city of Kandahar and elsewhere, the Taliban enforced its Islamic code with a brutality only hinted at by its public actions.
Non-Muslims were a common target. About 50 Hindu families who live here were ordered by the Taliban to wear distinguishing yellow clothing. Most of the few remaining Jews in Kabul left the country. There may be a few Christian Afghans; if so, they hid from the Taliban for fear of execution.
With Sayed, the Taliban thought it had to set an example.
The soldiers pulled him out of his cell. They kicked him, punched him, pulled his hair. They spat on him. The soldiers begged the commander for the privilege of killing Sayed with their knives.
"God will give us our reward, because this is the one who converted," they said.
When it got dark again, they took him back to the room with the blood-stained table. They handed him a piece of paper with written questions: Who do you work for? Who is giving you money? Name all the people you have taught and converted.
Sayed handed it back.
"Those questions do not relate to me. I haven't committed this crime," he said.
The Taliban guards again tied him on the table. This time, they poured water on his feet, then wound electrical wires around both of his big toes. The wires were attached to an old Soviet military field telephone. The guards turned the telephone's crank, sending a searing electrical current into Sayed's feet. It went on for more than an hour. He felt as if some powerful force was lifting him high off the table, then slamming him down again, over and over.
"Do you want to write something now?"
Sayed thought that if he continued to refuse he would convince them of his innocence. And he thought that if he confessed, they would kill him, probably in Kabul Stadium, where the Taliban held public executions. He imagined his body hanging there before the screaming crowd, with his own family too scared to claim it.
He couldn't pick up the pen.
They cranked the phone.
"I swear to God I am innocent," he screamed.
He felt the current slam into his bones. Then he blacked out.
Life in a Closet-Size Cell
He passed the next week or so in the closet-size cell. No one spoke to him. The floor was wet, and it was dark all the time. There were swarms of bugs -- on the floor, on the walls, on him. Twice a day, a guard gave him a cup of tea and one piece of bread.
He counted the days by scratching notches into the soft concrete walls with his fingernails, or making a mark with his blood.
He couldn't walk. His feet were battered and swollen from the beatings and the shocks. All his toenails were blackened. The toilet was a bucket on the next cell's floor. When they let him out to use it, he had to crawl there.
A Penalty Is Proposed
One morning the guards came for Sayed. He couldn't stand up, so the Taliban soldiers dragged him to a pickup truck and drove him, along with all his books, to Intelligence Division No. 3, a walled compound with barred windows in central Kabul.
The division commander met him. He insulted Sayed's mother and said nothing more. The guard who dragged him to his cell in the basement said to the other Taliban members there, "He will die soon. Pray for him."
Sayed felt weak and queasy.
Two weeks passed. Sayed was left alone in his basement cell, one of about 15 rooms about eight-feet-square along two dark corridors. He felt a little hope. Maybe this was not a place where they tortured prisoners.
Then they took him upstairs to a room that struck Sayed as some sort of torture museum. Whips, sticks, electrical cords. A device in which a man with his feet shackled to the floor is kept standing by a rope from the ceiling tied to his hair. They would each become familiar to Sayed, as would even more hideous electric shocks that made him urinate blood.
The place is now a jail run by the Security Ministry of the new Afghan government. Shah Wali, the deputy director, said that when he arrived shortly after the Taliban fled on Nov. 13, he found plastic ropes and heavy sticks in the torture room. He said blood was spattered on the walls and floor and on a large table in the middle of the room.
Shah opened a tattered yellow book of records left behind by the fleeing Taliban. It notes that 26-year-old prisoner Sayed Abdullah arrived in March 2000. It lists his crime as "belonging to the Christian religion."
When Sayed entered the torture room, a Taliban soldier told him: "We do not want to torture you. Just confess."
"I swear to God. I swear on the holy Koran. I am not the man you are looking for."
Sayed cried. The six or seven Taliban men there laughed.
"So you are British, huh? You are a Christian?"
They tied him facedown on the table. Slowly, they took off their turbans, then their coats, then rolled up their sleeves. They beat him like meat on a slab, chanting: "God is blessing us. God will reward us." One remarked that he would enjoy ripping Sayed's muscles out with pliers.
The beatings continued every few days for a month, until Sayed was ready to sign.
He wrote and wrote and wrote. Names of friends living in other countries. Made-up names. Made-up stories about spreading Christianity, about foreign money and shadowy networks of conversion-crazed preachers.
Anything they wanted to hear. Anything to make the torture stop.
A few days later, Sayed was carried out into the courtyard, a grassy oasis with flowered trellises and tall rosebushes blooming next to a gazebo. It was the first time he had seen the sun in a couple of months. There were several high-ranking Taliban officials gathered there.
"It is shameful that you converted from Islam to Christianity," said an older man, who Sayed assumed was a government minister.
"I confessed, but I never converted," Sayed said.
An enraged Taliban soldier ran to him, pulled his head by the hair and put a knife to his throat. "Give me permission to cut his throat so I may be rewarded by God," he said.
The Taliban official waved him off. He calmly told Sayed that his case was now closed and that he had been convicted. He said his file would be sent to Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's leader, and that Omar would certainly approve the recommended punishment.
"We will take you to the roof of the Ministry of Communications," he said, referring to the 18-story building that is Kabul's tallest. "First we will burn you. Then we will throw you over the edge so that everyone can see you and know the punishment for converting from Islam."
Then he turned to the guard.
"Take this pig away."
First Signs of Hope
Months had gone by and Sayed's mother, Fokhraj, was frantic. Then the bloody jacket arrived. She said a sympathetic Taliban soldier who lived in her neighborhood and had seen her crying gave it to her. He told her he had access to Sayed's cell and sneaked his blood-stained jacket out.
"Here, I want you to know that he is alive," he told her.
Fokhraj couldn't stop crying. She had already lost her husband and Sayed's only brother when a rocket hit their house in 1993, during fighting between rival warlords. She had to do something.
She went several times to Taliban leaders, who denied that they had Sayed. She asked everyone she could think of, until she finally spoke to a powerful Taliban military commander.
"This is a difficult case, and you can't solve it just by saying he is innocent," she recalls him saying. "I can help, but you should please pay me $5,000."
It was an enormous sum. But she sold the house -- the one where Sayed was arrested -- and almost everything in it, which yielded a little more than $5,000. She moved in with relatives, taking Sayed's wife and daughters with her. She gave the money to the commander.
His next moves showed a keen understanding of bureaucracy. Sayed's case was being handled by military authorities. If they sent the file to Omar for final approval, the sentence would be irreversible. Nobody questioned Omar.
But by pulling some strings that are still unclear to Sayed and his mother, the commander got the case transferred to a civilian court before the file went to Omar. Civilian judges were still with the Taliban, but they were more willing to deal. And the commander apparently paid them well.
Sayed was taken from his cell one day and brought to a civilian court. As he was being carried in, a judge walked up to him.
"Do not worry, you will be released soon," he said quietly.
The court proceedings took nearly a month. Twice a week Sayed was dragged into the court, and he listened to the judges argue about everything, it seemed to him, except the merits of his case.
Things changed at the jail. The torture stopped. There were no more beatings. Guards began putting sugar in his tea. They told him that after he was released he should come back and give them money, as a tip for not killing him.
Sayed tried to feel cheered by that, but couldn't.
A representative from the International Red Cross was allowed to visit him. It was someone Sayed knew from work, but the man didn't recognize him. It had been more than four months since he was arrested, and he now looked like an old man.
Sayed was allowed to give the Red Cross worker a letter to his family. He wrote: All is well. My health is fine. Don't worry about me. I will be home soon.
But he told the Red Cross worker that he expected to be executed at any time. He asked that his salary be paid to his family at least until he was killed.
A Final Session
Early one morning, 5 1/2 months after his arrest, the guards came for Sayed one last time. They dragged him up the 17 dirty stone steps he had crawled up so many times to reach the fetid bathroom. They took him into the office of the commander, the one who had greeted him by insulting his mother.
Sayed didn't know what was happening. But the commander gave him back the few papers he had in his pocket when he was arrested. He handed him his Red Cross identification card, torn in half. It dawned on Sayed: The commander, illiterate like most Taliban soldiers, thought the cross on the card was a Christian symbol.
"Sign this," he said.
He pushed a paper in front of Sayed. It said that the prisoner certified that he had been well cared for, that he had not been tortured and that he had been well fed. Sayed tried to pick up the pen, but his fingers were dislocated from the beatings. He scratched a faint mark on the paper.
"I don't know how this miracle happened, but you should be punished," the commander said. "You didn't die from the torture, but God will kill you soon. Or maybe the injuries from the torture will kill you."
The guards dragged him outside to a truck where the Taliban officer who had arranged his release was waiting. When they arrived at the house where his family was living, his mother ran to the car and hugged him. Then she fainted. His wife and children ran to him. The girls had grown so much. The younger one, Mazama, didn't recognize him, and she cried in fear when he tried to hold her.
Sayed stepped down from the truck. Looking toward the house, toward freedom, he did something he had not done in months.
Sayed spent six months in hospitals, in Kabul and in Pakistan. He wanted to leave Afghanistan for good, but he couldn't afford to move his whole family, and they have nowhere to go anyway.
Mohammed Zaher Osman, the orthopedic surgeon who still treats Sayed, said the torturers broke several bones in Sayed's back. He still wears a brace around his midsection to help him stand.
Sayed says he still has difficulty hearing, and his vision is weak. His short-term memory is sketchy. Osman said those problems are the result of repeated heavy blows to the back of his head.
He has chronic kidney problems and scars on his arms, back and feet. Beneath his stockings, his ankles and feet have odd peaks and valleys. He still takes painkillers, and antibiotics to fight recurring infections.
Osman said that Sayed could barely move or talk when he first saw him in a Kabul hospital in early 2000. He said the blows to his head and spine had caused severe nerve damage, leaving him incontinent and making it hard for him to control his hands, feet and speech.
Osman said Sayed's case was typical of many Taliban torture cases he has seen. He treated a woman whose forearms were broken by the Taliban because she complained to police that her husband was beating her. He had to amputate a man's leg because a Taliban soldier had emptied all 30 rounds from an AK-47 clip into his thigh.
"They were animals," Osman said. "They were animals to Sayed Abdullah."
Most of Sayed's hair has grown back, but he pushed back his curly mop and showed where torturers had ripped patches of hair out by the roots. Once a fairly fluent English speaker, he can no longer put together more than a few words.
He's back at work, helping to move crates of medicine around. But he's on doctor's orders not to lift anything heavier than about 15 pounds. Too many parts of his body could give out. He is 28.
He is delighted that the Taliban has been exorcised from Afghanistan. For months after he came home, one of the Taliban officers who had beaten him kept coming around his house, looking for money and making threats.
Now Sayed is free. But it is liberty without joy.
"He used to joke all the time, but he doesn't anymore," said Ebadullah Ebadi, a physician and Sayed's childhood friend.
Sayed's house is gone, sold to get him out of jail. He lives with his in-laws. He has little money left. Afghanistan is moving on to a better future, but Sayed feels the past is not yet ready to release him.
Looking into Sayed's eyes in the glow of the kerosene lamp burning long into a cold winter night, it is clear that the Taliban took something from deep inside him.
He will not try to replace his library, which the Taliban burned.
He can't bear the sound of the word "book."
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