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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Washington, 2 August (AKI/DAWN) - A US intelligence agency expert told a US court this week that Pakistan is still running a "terrorist training camp" in Balakot in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. Eric Benn, a terrorism expert for Defence Intelligence Agency, told the district court in California that there was 70 per cent "probability" the satellite images of a place near Balakot were that of a militant training camp. In Islamabad, the director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Major-General Shaukat Sultan, said the report was absurd.

"If US intelligence agencies had detected any such thing in Balakot, they should have passed on the information to us through official channels," said Sultan. "The area of Balakot was extensively seen by all international agencies, including NATO and the US, during the earthquake relief operation in 2005. No such training camp was spotted by them. We reject this malicious report which is aimed at undermining Pakistan’s efforts in the fight against terrorism," he said. The town of Balakot was one of the towns worst hit by the 8 October 2005 earthquake that hit Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the northern parts of the country.

The US intelligence agent showed the jury satellite images taken between 2001 and 2004 but he claimed that the facility in question seemed to have expand since then. “It may have become less temporary and more permanent,” he testified.

The images showed a 3 kilometre trail linked to the main road and dotted with several structures that seemed to reflect a guard house, barracks with a tin roof and perhaps some mud houses as well, the reports said.

The court is hearing terrorism charges against two Pakistani-Americans, 23-year old Hamid Hayat and his father Umer Hayat. Hamid’s sentencing has been postponed by four months to November and his father Umer Hayat, charged with lying to federal authorities, is being retried after the first round ended in a hung jury.

Agent Benn told the court that he did not “detect any formal weapons training”.
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