Dispatches > The Buzz

TOP NEWS

Issue: "Nuclear threat in Korea," Aug. 16, 2003
1
continuing the hunt
U.S. search teams found dozens of advanced fighter jets buried beneath the sands near an Iraqi airfield west of Baghdad. The trove included at least one Cold WarÐera MiG-25 but also about 30 brand-new fighter jets. The planes were not part of pre-war intelligence estimates, which numbered Saddam's combat aircraft at 300. Australian forces, who captured another airfield near Baghdad on April 16, also found scores of unrecorded fighter aircraft, most from the Soviet era but three MiG-25 Foxbats, the fastest combat aircraft available. Military proponents said the finds suggest there could be more unaccounted-for weapons, and that the hunt is clearly far from over. U.S. forces would like the desert sands to likewise yield the former Iraqi ruler. Intensified searches following the U.S. raid in July that killed sons Uday and Qusay are focusing on hideouts between Baghdad and Tikrit, Saddam's hometown 120 miles north of Baghdad. Soldiers have come close enough to nab fake IDs, even sweaty clothes that may have been shed by the deposed Iraqi leader in a hasty getaway. Soldiers captured four not publicly identified "close associates" of Saddam in Tikrit on Aug. 1. The other man with the $25 million head, Osama bin Laden, may again be in U.S. sights as well. A European intelligence agency director claims that members of Pakistan's intelligence agency could be harboring the al-Qaeda leader, possibly in Pakistan's Northwest Province, according to a report from World Security Network. U.S. intelligence has been monitoring the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region for Mr. bin Laden, particularly since the March capture of No. 3 man Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Intelligence agents receive persistent reports of the 9/11 mastermind's presence in the region, but hear little of him publicly. Mr. bin Laden last appeared publicly on April 7 in an audiotape that CIA analysts said was probably authentic. Television images of the al-Qaeda leader have not been seen for more than a year and a half.
2
catch & release
Buses carrying 339 Palestinian prisoners left Israeli jails the morning of Aug. 6, headed for a handover at five Palestinian checkpoints. The release program, Israel says, is a demonstration of its commitment to fulfilling the U.S. roadmap to peace. Palestinians hailed the returning captives, all men, as heroes, but Israelis claim they are terrorists. Actual records, however, are mixed. None of those released have been specifically charged with terrorist attacks. An Israeli government breakdown indicated 182 of the men were security prisoners, while 157 were "administrative detainees," Palestinians jailed indefinitely for crossing into Israeli territory without permits and other lesser violations. The security risks, according to the breakdown, included- Fire-bomb throwers: 29 Grenade throwers: 2 Shooters: 3 Bomb placers: 1 Rock throwers: 22 Throwers of something else: 2 At least 100 more prisoners will be released, the largest amnesty since Palestinian militants launched the intifada three years ago.
3
roadmap's trailmap
Busing home prisoners is not actually in the U.S.-drafted roadmap. It's part of a three-month truce, a trailmap on the way to a roadmap, agreed to by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on June 30 under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Islamic militant groups, according to Michael S. Doran at Princeton University, believe they have a "win-win" situation under that temporary agreement, even though many suspect the groups' Saudi backers cut off funding in order to obtain their signatures. "They're banking on the fact that [Israeli President Ariel] Sharon won't do the kinds of things that the broader Palestinian and Arab publics think he should do for peace," said Mr. Doran. But as long as Mr. Sharon goes along with both truce and roadmap, pressure should build on suicide bombers to lay down their weapons.
4
message received
Days ahead of expected rulings from the trials of those charged in terror attacks in Bali last October, Indonesian terrorists struck again. A powerful car bomb rocked the five-star J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, killing about a dozen people and injuring more than 150. An SUV packed with explosives blew up in front of the 333-room hotel. No Americans died in the attack, but the bombing was clearly meant to send a signal to the United States. The luxury hotel was known as a favorite of American diplomats and businessmen: Just a month earlier, the U.S. Embassy held its July 4 celebration there. Indonesian authorities almost immediately blamed Jemaah Islamiyah, the local al-Qaeda affiliate believed to be responsible for two suicide bombings in Bali. More than 200 people died in the earlier attacks, and the government responded with a roundup of Jemaah Islamiyah members. With the first verdicts in the Bali trials expected on Aug. 7, the Marriott bombing was widely viewed as a warning sign to the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Ms. Megawati has been cooperating closely with the U.S.-led war on terror since the Bali attacks-an unpopular position in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

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