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New York Post September 28, 2001
A CLOSER LOOK AT CAMP OSAMA

By Niles Latham

September 28, 2001 -- WASHINGTON - America's war on terror will be waged on a moonscape-like battlefield made up of a spidery network of ancient caves and tunnels - the home to Osama bin Laden's terror-training camps. There, in the desert of Afghanistan, hundreds of terrorists learn the tools of their deadly trade - from explosives training to chemical warfare.

Space Imaging's IKONOS satellite one-meter resolution image of the Darunta terrorist training complex in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan
Darunta Camp

Space Imaging's IKONOS satellite one-meter resolution image of the Darunta terrorist training complex in Afghanistan.
(photo credit: "spaceimaging.com")
The first commercially released satellite photos of one of the camps - the Darunta complex near Jalalabad - show entrances to the tunnels, as well as a flat area that may be a helipad.

Graduates of Darunta include former Boston cabby Raed Hijazi, the alleged ringleader in a plot to attack tourist and religious sites in Jordan. Authorities have linked him to some of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks.

The photos "give us an insight on how the hunt for bin Laden is likely to unfold and what American forces will be going up against when they look for and attack these complexes," said Tim Brown, an analyst with the defense think tank, globalsecurity.org. The organization released the photos, taken in December 1999 by the commercial satellite Ikonos, which is operated by Space Imaging Inc. and Lockheed Martin.

Darunta is only one of some 30 secret, camouflaged bases set up by bin Laden. Officials say the terrorists who trained at the various bases include the attackers of the USS Cole and American embassies in Africa.

The Darunta complex includes the Abu Khabab camp, where intelligence sources say explosives are stored and terrorists are trained how to use them to produce the most casualties. It's also the chemical-warfare training site - and has drawn the most interest from U.S. intelligence analysts.

Abu Khabab and its satellite camps are expected to be among the first targets when U.S. planes and elite ground troops begin to fire the openings rounds in the war against terror.

Also in the square-quarter-mile terror complex are:

* The Assadalah Abdul Rahman camp, operated by the son of blind cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, who is jailed in the United States for plotting to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993.

* The Taliban area, run by the religious militia that controls most of the country. It's used mostly to house government officials.

* The Hizbi Islami Camp, operated by a group of Pakistani extremists fighting in Kashmir.

The system of at least 14 tunnels is considered the key to the entire complex.

"When they dig the tunnel, they do it for a number of purposes," Brown said. "They get physical protection from air attacks. They can stockpile weapons and equipment, and they can train in secret," he said.

The system is more extensive than the one in Vietnam that allowed Viet Cong troops to suddenly disappear from pursuing U.S. forces. They proved crucial to fighters trying to ward off a British invasion in the 19th century and were used extensively against Soviet occupation troops in the 20th century.

The latest satellite imagery shows the complex was empty on Sept. 11, the day terrorists attacked the Twin Towers and Pentagon, sources said. Bin Laden and his henchmen are now believed to be dispersed throughout Afghanistan in their other tunnel complexes.


Copyright 2001 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.