Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

New anti-terror force keeps up pressure on networks

REUTERS , PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Pakistan is raising a new force with the help of the US to intensify its war on terror networks, a senior government official said yesterday.

A first batch of more than 40 officers from the new Special Investigation Group (SIG) will graduate next month after three months of training.

"This is going to be a highly specialized and high-tech force to track down terrorists and investigate acts of terrorism," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan, a key ally in Washington's war on terror, has arrested hundreds of militants from Afghanistan's former Taliban regime and from the al-Qaeda network blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

But lately, it has faced growing accusations from officials of the US-backed government in Afghanistan that it has allowed Taliban guerrillas to regroup in Pakistan and orchestrate attacks on US and Afghan forces, a charge Islamabad denies.

The Pakistani official said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was closely associated in the creation of the special force.

Pakistan saw a string of attacks on Western and Christian targets after it threw its weight behind the US-led war on terror that toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

The official said the SIG would also specialize in identifying and investigating money laundering activities used to finance terror groups and would have access to extensive computer databases.

Currently, Pakistan's military spy service, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is spearheading the war on militant networks, particularly Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

With FBI assistance, Pakistani agents have rounded up a large number of al-Qaeda operatives.

However, bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar have managed to elude capture despite suspicions that they have been hiding in the rugged Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

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