BIN LADEN'S TORA BORA CAVE TO BE A RESORT, TABLOID SAYS
by Chiranjibi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondentr
LONDON, Oct. 30 -- The rugged, wild Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, once the hideout for the world's most-wanted terrorist, will be converted into a luxury tourist attraction with the construction of a holiday resort at the scene - at least that's what a tabloid paper in London says.
The caves of remote and mountainous Tora Bora, which were bombarded
by American forces trying to kill or capture Osama bin Laden following the
Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., will now become
a tourist attraction, the daily Sun said.
The cave system in a war-ravaged, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan was the safest hiding place Osama bin Laden could find until U.S. forces assaulted the area in 2001 and drove him out, probably to Iran, Pakistan or Yemen.
Afghanistan wants to develop the area at a cost of UK5.3 million pounds, or nearly $10 million. Hotels and restaurants are being built on mountains overlooking the al-Qaeda refuge, Britain's widely read "rabloid" said Monday.
"Tora Bora is world famous - but we want it to be known for tourism, not terrorism," Gul Agha Sherazi, a local governor, was quoted as saying.
"It was known as a picnic spot long before anyone had heard of Osama bin Laden."
Sherazi said "Tora Bora is 100-percent safe."
However, the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan with the support of al-Queda until 2001 have intensified their attacks in the recent months. Two journalists are reported to have been killed near there recently.
"This is a beautiful cluster of hills," Jonathan Miller, a British tourist who visited Tora Bora in the 1980s, told The American Reporter. "This is really a beautiful hill area overlooking the caves," he said.
Bin Laden, with around 1,000 of his soldiers and bodyguards, stayed there for months after the collapse of Taliban regime, resisting enormous efforts to capture him.
There is a decades-old connection between Tora Bora and Saudi Arabia's Bin Laden family, Wilkinson said.
It is believed that Laden and his family invested in the development of rhe Tora Bora cave system during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
Bin Laden spent many years in the area during the jihad, or holy war, against the communist Afghan regime installed with the backing of the Soviet Union.
"This is the beginning, and this is the end of Bin Laden," Al Ahmadi, a local commander was quoted as saying about the resort plan.
Bin Laden won the heart of Afghan people fighting against Russia, he said.
"If security is provided in Afghanistan, then this country can be a very attractive place for tourists," said Tony Wilkinson, described as "an ex-soldier who once worked in Afghanistan."
A holiday resort will certainly attract people to Afghanistan, as there are no high-quality hotels there, he said. The real Afghanistan can be viewed from the resort if it materializes, he added. The area has long been peopled by fierce and nomadic Afghan tribes who may not werlcome tourists, however. And the area around the caves is dauntingly remote. Winter brings months of freezing weather and hundreds of inches of snow.
The determination of democratically-elected Afghan president Hamid Karzai's government to wipe out terrorism in Afghanistan and forward the pace of development can only be realized if enough security is provided to visitors. It is unknown what kind of financial commitment that may entail.
"The Tora Bora Holiday Resort can be a symbol of victory over evil and the banishment of al-Queda terrorism from the globe." the exclaimed. The paper is known to invent stories and quotations on occasion, however.
The project would be "a big blow to al-Qaeda," as it would send the message that the heart of terrorism has become a beautiful tourist attraction, it said.
Al Queda is believed to have run training camps in Afghanistan and neighboring countries including Pakistan to launch attacks against the western countries - particularly in the United States and England.