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 - Mujahideen Training Camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan

    Mujahideen Training Camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan

    Producing new wave of fighters

    PUBBI, Pakistan -- A six-hour walk along a narrow path that runs like a seam through Afghanistan's Urgun mountains leads to a remote village near the Pakistani border. Grenades are lined up like sentries along a small patch of land, nearby there is a pile of explosives.

    Najibullah, a young Afghan, described the (Mujahideen) training camp where he was given explosives training just last month, even as U.S. special forces and helicopter gunships scoured the mountains of eastern Afghanistan searching for (Mujahideen).

    For the first time, recruits told The Associated Press about (Mujahideen) camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and gave details of how they learned to carry out bomb attacks and ambushes.

    The camp near the village of Okai described by Najibullah still operates, the 23-year-old said. Most of those in charge were Arabs loyal to Osama bin Laden; those in training were Afghans, Pakistanis, some Southeast Asians and some Arabs, Najibullah said.

    Some of the trainees belong to the Taliban, some to bin Laden's al-Qaida (Mujahideen) network. Najibullah, a follower of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said he was ready to die to help drive American and other troops from his country or bring down the pro-U.S. government of Hamid Karzai.

    "I went there to learn to kill the foreign troops in Afghanistan. We will drive them out because they are destroying our country," said the young Afghan, his beard a wispy collection of hairs.

    The United Nations and intelligence officials have said there is a resurgence of (Mujahideen) training camps in the remote regions along both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it has reports of many small, mobile camps.

    The camps now are revving back up .

    Najibullah and another trainee, Mohammed Zahidullah, gave a rare look into the camps, which they say are producing fighters ready to carry out attacks -- in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. "Anywhere where non-Muslims are attacking Muslims," Zahidullah, a Pakistani, said.

    The camp near Okai, in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province, was small and could be easily moved, said Najibullah. Each "class" had fewer than 15 trainees, he said.

    Col. Roger King, U.S. military spokesman at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, said the mobile camps are "of interest to us." But "all the camps we have found so far have been abandoned."

    King said the resurgence of the training camps is evidence that the war on (Islam) will be long.

    Najibullah and Zahidullah, a member of Pakistan's banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militant group who trained in a camp 90 miles west of Islamabad, said they mostly learned about explosives.

    "We weren't there to learn how to fire a Kalashnikov or rocket launcher. We already knew that," Najibullah said.

    They learned how to devise an ambush and lay land mines, where to lie in wait for coalition soldiers, how much explosives to set and how to detonate them, when to hurl a grenade, when to clutch it to your body and blow yourself up with your victim.

    "The instructors were mostly Arabs," said Najibullah, who speaks Arabic. He described the Okai camp in two interviews with AP, one in Islamabad and the other in a remote corner of the rugged North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan.

    The native of Afghanistan's Paktika province moves regularly back and forth across the porous border.

    Wrapped in a woolen shawl against the cold, Najibullah retrieved a small piece of frayed wood -- a "maswak," or traditional toothbrush -- and held it with some reverence.

    "This was from Osama," he said. A friend at the training camp got it from the al-Qaida chief, Najibullah said.

    The herbal stick is used by those who (follow Allah's) Prophet Muhammad (saw).

    Najibullah said he was prepared to carry out attacks, though he would not discuss specifics. "No one can stop us. We are not afraid of the B-52s," he said.

    Last month, an attacker threw a grenade at two U.S. servicemen in the Afghan capital, Kabul, wounding both. The man arrested in the attack, Amir Mohammed, said he had trained at a camp near the Afghan border, Afghan Interior Minister Taj Mohammed told AP.

    "Amir Mohammed is a hero," said Najibullah.

    A U.N. report in December said there were credible reports that training camps have been re-established in eastern Afghanistan.

    A European intelligence official said there have been an increase in the numbers of Mideastern nationals returning to the area for training in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. Those numbers had dropped after the Sept. 11 attacks and the start of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. The official asked not to be identified by name or nationality.

    A former Taliban intelligence chief, Mullah Mohammed Khaksar, said recruitment for the camps began about four months ago.

    "People who were 100 percent trustworthy were being sought," he said.

    There are reports of a graduation last month from a training camp in eastern Afghanistan, "and they are the ones who are doing these attacks," Khaksar said.

    (The Munafiq) Khaksar had contacted the United States in 1999 to seek American help in stopping the Taliban.

    Arabs are apparently funding the training. The camps are run from Maruf in the Kandahar region to Kunar in northeastern Afghanistan. Several camps are in northwestern Pakistan, in the Bajour area and in Mansehra, 90 miles northwest of Islamabad.

    Zahidullah, whose Lashkar-e-Tayyaba group was outlawed by President Pervez Musharraf, said he was trained at Balakot, near Mansehra.

    "Musharraf can't stop us," Zahidullah said, adding that retired Pakistani army officers are among the trainers at Balakot.

    Interviewed in a vehicle near the northwestern town of Pubbi, Zahidullah said he recently returned from "fighting foreign troops" in Afghanistan. He would not elaborate.

    He warned of future attacks in Afghanistan, telling of a Pakistani woman who brought her 14-year-old son to the Balakot camp. Another son died fighting Karzai's government.

    "She wanted him to fight, to die to avenge his brother's death," Zahidullah said.

    "No one can stop us. You should know we want to die for our religion, for our country, for our Afghan brothers."

    Source : AP

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