Salem held in hotel with Indian starlet
Anti-US bloodspill in India
Osama’s nuclear ambition brings Pak under glare

New Delhi, Oct. 27: 
Gangster Abu Salem is being detained along with a Bollywood actress in a Sharjah hotel despite the inability of the Union government to “confirm” it.

Salem, an accused in the Mumbai blasts as well as the murder of cassette king Gulshan Kumar, was unofficially detained by authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after American investigators stumbled on a phone call he made from New Jersey demanding international rights to an Aamir Khan film.

Sources said a small-time actress, who had a role in the Govinda-Sunjay Dutt starrer Jodi No. 1 and was accompanying Salem, was also detained on suspicion that her papers were not in order.

She was questioned for travelling with a fake Indian passport and under an assumed name, Fawjia. “She was travelling under false identity,” an Indian official said.

Officials in Delhi had claimed in private during the day that Salem, once the right-hand of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, was “let off” after questioning but other sources confirmed tonight that he is still being detained in Sharjah’s Sheba Hotel.

Sources in Delhi said Sharjah police are likely to hold Salem for another week so that the Americans can interrogate him and complete their background checks. US investigators are interested in him not because of the Indian warrant but because of New Jersey’s link to the September 11 hijackings and the current anthrax phobia sweeping America.

If the Americans do not find any connection between Salem and the terror strikes, it is expected that he will be allowed to leave. Police sources in Mumbai had been claiming that the Centre was not too eager to catch Salem since he had fallen out with Dawood, Delhi’s public enemy number one.

They cited the case of another Dawood-estranged gangster, Chhota Rajan, who exploited “bureaucratic delays” in India to slip out despite being arrested in Thailand. Significantly, the Maharashtra government refused to retract its statement on the arrest of Salem despite conflicting signals from Delhi.

For the record, the Indian external affairs ministry said there has been no “confirmation” of the “arrest” or “detention” of Salem. “We are in touch with the UAE authorities on this subject and closely monitoring the situation,” Nirupama Rao, spokesperson of the foreign office, said.

If the foreign office chose its words carefully, unnamed sources in the CBI had no hesitation in asserting that “no such arrest or detention had taken place anywhere in any of the emirates within the UAE”.

“There is no basis for the report that any person by the name of Salem has been picked up or arrested anywhere in the UAE,” CBI sources told PTI, quoting a note from Dubai police, who represent Interpol.

However, others pointed out that Salem, among the most wanted in India, could hardly be expected to travel under his real name. The sources in Delhi said Salem could be using a Pakistani passport.

Officials in Mumbai said the state government had kept a police team ready with all the evidence it had against Salem, including fingerprints required to establish his identity and press for his extradition. Mumbai police claimed to have arrested Salem in an extortion case in the early nineties and have his fingerprints.

The sources said deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal had gone public with the capture of the gangster on television to prevent a replay of the Rajan episode.

Bhujbal, who holds the home portfolio, had gambled on the presumption that the announcement would force the Centre’s hand. He had hoped that the Union government would move fast to extradite the held gangster, wanted in Mumbai for at least 20 cases of murder, extortion and kidnapping.

The sources said they were surprised how the Centre feigned ignorance. They said the CBI was under pressure to deny the gangster’s detention to save the Union government a loss of face.

They said Rajan, shot and wounded by the D-Company in Bangkok last November, had got off in a similar fashion.


Mumbai, Oct. 27: 
Army patrolled the streets of curfew-bound Malegaon, a day after seven people were killed and scores wounded in the country’s first riot directly linked to the us strikes.

Rioting started after police last afternoon shot dead five people, including a woman, outside a mosque in the Nashik town, about 250 km from Mumbai.

Police said they opened fire after being attacked with stones when they tried to discourage a group of people from distributing anti-us leaflets outside the Jumma Masjid, the powerloom town’s main mosque, after Friday prayers. The leaflets in Urdu urged people to boycott us-manufactured consumer goods available in the country to protest against the American attack on Afghanistan. The incident took place when the rest of the country was celebrating Dussehra.

As news of the firing spread, riots broke out in the town. More than 150 shops were looted and torched as rioters from two communities took to the streets. Two people were stabbed to death.

Police said the rioters torched several vehicles at Perry Chowk in the heart of the town.

The mob looted a wholesale grain market before setting it ablaze. Police estimated the damage at Rs 6 crore.

A fire station was also attacked to prevent firemen from going around the town. Several policemen sustained injuries as they fought the rampaging mob.

Director-general of police Subhas Malhotra said the situation was under control after the army was called in. Curfew was imposed to prevent a flare-up.

More than 150 people have been arrested. A total of 14 people, some with bullet injuries, were admitted to a local hospital.

A police officer said trouble started when a jawan from an armed police picket snatched a leaflet from one of the men. An altercation ensued, leading to an attack on the police picket. The jawan said he had objected to the leaflets because they carried Osama bin Laden’s picture.


Washington, Oct. 27: 
Americans, rattled by the omnipresence of anthrax in their midst, have a new worry: a nuclear threat from Osama bin Laden.

Paranoid about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities falling into fundamentalist hands, President George W. Bush is engaging congressional leaders on neutralising Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential think tank, that “those discussions are underway with the Democratic and Republican members of Congress and the President on setting those priorities.

“The question is, the President has an internal dilemma he has to overcome first. He is focusing on first things first.… There is, for lack of a better phrase, still a Rumsfeld-Powell split on how they look at the world, and how they look at these very issues.”

American fears of a nuclear al Qaida reached a crescendo during the weekend with British Prime Minister Tony Blair warning of a nuclear attack from bin Laden’s network.

Speaking on British Forces Radio, Blair said: “If these terrorists who killed over 6,000 people in America are allowed to carry on building up their terrorist network, possibly acquiring chemical, biological, even nuclear weapons of mass destruction, our world will be an insecure, unsafe place and there will be no corner of the world that will be untouched by that.”

A day before Blair’s warning, The Times and Britain’s Channel 4 television, quoting intelligence sources, said al Qaida had not yet acquired the capability to mount a nuclear attack, but was working towards that objective.

The reports said bin Laden had acquired nuclear material from Pakistan.

Lending credibility to these reports was the arrest last week of two Pakistani nuclear scientists Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhury Abdul Majid, both experts on plutonium.

Mahmood helped set up Pakistan’s plutonium reactor in Khushab while Majid worked in a plutonium plant in Belgium in the 1960s.

Mahmood, who was a project director for Pakistan’s nuclear programme, is so radical in his nuclear views that he resigned in protest against Islamabad’s soft line on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Majid, who shares Mahmood’s views, was director of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission until last year.

The two men then set up a charity for relief activities in Afghanistan and have links with the Taliban, according to intelligence sources.

The Times alleged that in 1993, Jamal al-Fadi, an aide to bin Laden, negotiated the purchase of a cylinder of enriched uranium from South Africa for $1.5 million through a Sudanese military commander in Khartoum.

German television reported last week that al Qaida tried to acquire weapons-grade uranium from the Russian mafia, but the attempt failed when the material was seized in Prague.

British media reports said intelligence sources feared bin Laden may disperse radioactive material in an urban environment exposing thousands of people to radiation instead of making an atomic weapon.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan said on Friday that “our nuclear materials are in very safe hands, these are absurd allegations”. He confirmed that the two scientists had been arrested in connection with their charitable work in Afghanistan.




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