Fugitive al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden recently escaped a sweep by Pakistani troops hunting for Taliban fighters and is hiding near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, an Afghan official said yesterday. \nHaji Abdullah, head of the Pashir Wa Agam district, south of the Afghan town of Jalalabad, said he had recently spoken to a former leader of the ousted Taliban regime who said bin Laden had made an appeal for a safe house. \n"Four days ago, I met a former Taliban leader from Peshawar who told me he had received a fax sent from a satellite telephone and signed `the Sheikh,' the title used to denote Osama bin Laden," Abdullah said. \n"The fax said that the Sheikh was safe and sound, that he had managed to escape an operation led by the Pakistani army in South Waziristan and that he had found refuge in a place on the border," he added. \nUS military officials have repeatedly refused to comment on speculation surrounding bin Laden's fate. \nThe leader of the al-Qaeda network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks has been the target of one of the most intense manhunts ever conducted since going to ground during the US-backed war to oust the fundamentalist Taliban in 2001. \nThe Pakistani military launched an operation on Feb. 24 near Wana, in South Waziristan, in Pakistan's western tribal belt, to hunt down "foreign terrorists" believed to be hiding in the area. \nAround 20 people suspected of al-Qaeda links were arrested in the operation. \n"Another Taliban source told me that Osama bin Laden had asked Taliban leaders to meet urgently in Quetta [in Pakistan] to try to find him a safe place to hide out," Abdullah said. \nUS commanders on the trail for bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar said in January they were confident that they would snare the two top fugitives within a year. \nThe comments by the leader of the US-led forces in Afghanistan, General David Barno, revived speculation that the kill-or-capture hunt for bin Laden may be reaching its conclusion. \nMeanwhile, American and Afghan troops killed nine suspected Islamic militants in a gun battle in the eastern province of Paktika, not far from the Pakistan border, the US military said yesterday. \nThe clash on Friday began when US forces opened fire on a group of 30 to 40 armed men who appeared to be trying to move to the side of their sniper position east of Orgun-E, 170km south of Kabul, in order to launch an attack. \n"They were armed, they were acting in a hostile manner, so we fired on them and then we pursued them with the Afghan National Army," US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Bryan Hilferty told a news briefing. \n"Nine of them were killed in that battle, and there were no coalition casualties." \nAt least 10 US snipers from a special operations task force in Afghanistan were involved in the battle, supported by a nearby battalion of Afghan troops. The rest of the group of suspected guerrillas fled. \nThe clash was one of the largest reported in recent months between 13,000 US-led troops in Afghanistan and their local allies and Islamic militants from groups including the ousted Taliban militia and al-Qaeda.
‘WITHIN SAFE LIMITS’: Hong Kong is to ask authorities in Guangdong for updates regarding the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant and inform the public of developments The Hong Kong government is closely watching a nearby Chinese nuclear power plant following a news report that it might be leaking, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday. The plant’s operators have released few details, but nuclear experts have said that based on their brief public statement, the facility might be suffering a leak of gas from fuel rods inside a reactor. Government data showed that radiation levels in Hong Kong were normal on Monday night, Lam said. Data from the Hong Kong Observatory showed radiation levels were still normal yesterday. A French company that helps manage the Taishan Nuclear
Until recently, the location of executed Japanese prime minister Hideki Tojo’s remains was one of World War II’s biggest mysteries in the nation he once led. Now, a Japanese university professor has revealed declassified US military documents that appear to hold the answer. The documents show the cremated ashes of Tojo, one of the masterminds of the Pearl Harbor attack, were scattered from a US Army aircraft over the Pacific Ocean about 50km east of Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city. It was a tension-filled, highly secretive mission, with US officials taking extreme steps to keep Tojo’s remains, and those of six others executed
When COVID-19 arrived in India, few places looked as vulnerable as Mumbai. However, a year on, South Asia’s most crowded city has surprised many by tackling a vicious second wave of the virus with considerable success. Gaurav Awasthi even traveled hundreds of kilometers from his home on the outskirts of Delhi to get his ailing wife a hospital bed there, paying an ambulance more than US$1,000 to drive 24 hours straight. “I cannot ever repay my debt to this city,” the 29-year-old said, recounting an ordeal that saw him spend five days fruitlessly searching for a bed across several cities, including Delhi.
Offering Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccines to the public in Singapore for the first time since Friday, several private clinics reported overwhelming demand for the Chinese-made shot, despite already available rival vaccines having far higher efficacy. Singapore has vaccinated almost half its 5.7 million population with at least one dose of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both have shown efficacy rates of well over 90 percent against symptomatic disease in clinical trials, compared with Sinovac’s 51 percent. Earlier this week, officials in Indonesia said that more than 350 medical workers have caught COVID-19, despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been