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Howard's End: bin Laden’s Net Spreads Wide

The U.S. administration is busy gathering a coalition together to attack Osama bin Laden and his Afghani-based camps, but its intelligence gathering capacity is so weak that it really doesn't know who to go to war with or whether it can legally assassinate a private person. And it had better watch out for China. Maree Howard writes.

While the grass roots reaction of Americans to the horrific terrorist attacks on American soil is perhaps understandable, the real question is - whom does America attack in retaliation?

Osama bin Laden is connected - boy, is he connected.

So, if the U.S. attacks him and, it says, the countries which harbour his activities, it had better be prepared for a global war.

Will it be Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, China, Indonesia, Chechnya, the Balkans, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines, Sudan, or will it simply be the Russian Mafia?

Will it be the Arab states or networks?

Or will it be Belgium, Amsterdam, Luxembourg or Anvir, where bin Laden's banking and financial connections are anchored.

Or will it be Saudi Arabia where his construction company is located?

Or will it be Yemen or Sudan where his front companies and bank deposits are situated?

Or will America attack all of the above?

Osama bin Laden has such a global reach that the organisations he is directly connected with operates as a kind of Islamic International - a vast, sinister world of Islamic terrorism but of which bin Laden is only one member.

Analysts estimate that the countries he has a presence in numbers about 50.

Bin Laden has been likened to a Mafia don, but his organisation has no resemblance to the Mafia.

The organised structure he belongs to could best be described as consisting of small groups of like-minded individuals around the world whom he finances. Some groups he chooses to finance, while others he ignores. There is no central chain of command.

Bin Laden has also been active in the Balkans being provided finance by Islamic charities. And his group remains active and fighting with the Albanian rebels in Macedonia today.

Both Russia and China would like to be rid of him because of Islamic revolutions in Chechnya and in the province of Xinjiang in China.

But, and it is a big but, China has just signed a memorandum of understanding for economic and technical co-operation with the Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

The agreement was signed Tuesday, the same day the terrorists hijacked four planes in the United States.

A Chinese delegation signed the deal in Kabul with the Taleban's minister of mining, Mullah Mohammed Ishaq which provides for much needed help for Afghanistan's economic and infrastructure development.

China's agreement with the Taleban is the most substantial part of a series of contracts that Beijing has had with Afghanistan over the last two years.

The deal is disturbing several high-ranking government officials in the West and now places a cloud over possible U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, said to be harbouring bin Laden.

While China helped form the Shanghai Co-operative Organisation that joins Russia and three other central Asia nations aimed at combating cross-border terrorism which includes Afghanistan, it is quietly working away with the Taleban.

China has also signed a closer military co-operation agreement with Russia on weapons sales and transfers making the two a formidable force against the West.

So Americans want to go to war - but with whom? There's bound to be some hard soul-searching in Washington this night, so don't expect an early U.S. decision to attack anybody.


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