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CNN Today

Pakistan, Other South Asian Nations Becoming Safe Haven for Terrorists

Aired May 1, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The government says a new breed of international terrorist is posing a threat to Americans. In a report issued today, the State Department says terrorist groups intent on harming Americans have moved operations from the Middle East to Southern Asia.

At a news conference this morning, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today's terrorist operations are leaner and meaner, and are driven by crime as much as ideology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are seeing a shift from well-organized local groups supported by state sponsors to more far-flung and loosely structured webs of terror. We're detecting a shift from state funding to private sponsorship in criminal enterprises such as blackmail, and trafficking in drugs, guns, and even human beings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Despite the claim that terrorist groups are distancing themselves from government patrons, the report accuses seven nations of being terrorist sponsors. They are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Two other nations mentioned today are Afghanistan and Pakistan, with Afghanistan cited as the No. 1 terrorist haven. The State Department says that while neither country directly supports terrorist groups, they are not doing much to stop them.

CNN's Satinder Bindra looks at one militant force that's operating in Pakistan, beyond the reach of the government.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gulam Rasu Shah (ph) is a wanted men. Both he and India acknowledge there's a price on his head. Shah now lives in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and only allowed us to take pictures of him praying. Shah says he recruits people to fight on the part of Kashmir India controls, and many Muslims want to be independent. Indian police confirm Shah recently escaped from an Indian jail, but in Pakistan Shah operates unhindered and has declared a holy war against India.

"Us holy warriors believe death is a very sacred event," says Shah. "We are proud of such a death."

It's estimated between 25,000 to 40,000 Pakistanis belong to extremist groups, one of which the U.S. has declared a terrorist organization.

(on camera): The United States is concerned about the growing power of Pakistan's militant Muslim groups, because some of them have close ties to suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden. The U.S. State Department believes Pakistan still covertly supports these groups.

(voice-over): The U.S. now wants Pakistan to curb the power of these groups. Pakistan's chief executive General Pervez Musharraf says he denounces terrorism and no such groups are given official support.

GENERAL PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN MILITARY PRESIDENT: These are individuals, individuals who are emotionally involved. So therefore, to say that there's any government patronage is out of the question.

BINDRA: Still, religious schools here tell students it's their duty to fight. At mosque, people who consider themselves holy warriors collect funds to fight in India Kashmir.

"This is our duty toward the prophet," says this man. "We should send our sons and everone to fight."

Shah says he constantly looks for such volunteers, and despite Pakistan's denials, he says training camps do exist.

"The proof is we are fighting for the last 10 years," he says, and e are not short of fighters."

Shah says he won't rest until Indian-administered Kashmir is free.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, Islamabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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