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Friday, June 23, 2006

Hunt begins for fugitive (Dawood Ibrahim)

(Gulf News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Lahore: Acting on a tip-off from the American intelligence officials stationed in Pakistan, the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Border Security Force have launched a clandestine operation to hunt down the most wanted Indian fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, reportedly stationed somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghan tribal belt.

Though the Pakistan government continues to deny the fact that Dawood was hiding in Pakistan, US intelligence operatives stationed in Peshawar have claimed that the Pak-Afghan tribal belt, which was earlier being searched for Al Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden and his right hand man Ayman Al Zawahiri, is now being combed for the main accused in the Mumbai blasts of March 1993.

The Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan are no strangers to coveted search operations for international terrorists.

The American intelligence sleuths stationed in Pakistan reportedly came to know of Dawood's presence in the Pak-Afghan tribal belt recently.

It was when the underworld don narrowly escaped death after his helicopter engine failed on its way to a wedding in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The pilot managed to steer the helicopter, which was also carrying Dawood's younger brother Anees Ibrahim and a few other relatives to safety.

According to US intelligence sources, the most wanted Indian fugitive had first shifted his base from Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan, to the federal capital, Islamabad, after the US Treasury Department had declared him a specially designated global terrorist with Al Qaida links.

Much to Islamabad's embarrassment, the US Treasury Department in its reasons for naming Dawood on the list of the world's worst terrorists, had cited intelligence reports of his connection with the now outlawed militant outfits Al Qaida and Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The sources say despite having moved to Islamabad, the D-Company boss kept changing residences frequently because many international agencies were trying to trace him out in the Pakistani federal capital and thus the don wanted to give them the slip.

Eventually, the intelligence sources say, his movements had to be restricted to a great extent and he was made a virtual prisoner.

Fed up with the restrictions, Dawood decided to move out from Islamabad and relocate himself on the Pakistan-Afghan tribal belt.

Well-placed American diplomatic sources in Islamabad say the hunt for Dawood has been launched in the backdrop of the June 3 decision by the American President to add three accused drug-traffickers including Dawood Ibrahim and two reputed crime organisations to the US list of foreign drug kingpins, denying them access to the American financial system as well as barring them from trade with US companies and individuals.

The sources said the Indian government, which is keen to nab Dawood, had also requested the Karzai government to help arrest the fugitive.

President Hamid Karzai subsequently tasked the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Border Security Force to include Dawood's name in the list of most wanted terrorists hunted by the United States, Afghanistan and of course the Indian government.

The sources said three versions of Dawood's pictures have been provided to the Afghan Army and the Afghan Border Security Force for the hunt clean shaven, with mustache, and bearded.

Dawood's name hit newspaper headlines in India and Pakistan in April when the lingering issue of his arrest and extradition was raised at the secretary-level Indo-Pak talks in Islamabad.

Although the Pakistani side expressed ignorance about his whereabouts, the Indian side believed that the fugitive don was having a safe sanctuary in Pakistan, where, he continues to maintain close links with some anti-India militant outfits.
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