A former official of a pro-Taliban organization claims to have heard the voice of Osama bin Laden over a telephone as the terrorist leader gave instructions to his remaining forces in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Italian news daily Corriere della Sera.

Ibrahim Paracha, a former assistant secretary of a now defunct organization called the Afghan-Pakistan Defense Council, stated that three days ago he crossed the border from his native Pakistan into Afghanistan and met with several members of bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist group.

According to the Corriere della Sera report, the local Pakistani press confirms that Paracha has remained in close contact with al-Qaida, despite the fall of the Taliban government and the abolition of his Afghan-Pakistan Defense Council.

Paracha issued his statements in Peshawar, Pakistan, after returning from his meeting with al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.

Paracha claims to have traveled to the Tora Bora region, a few miles from the Pakistani border, where he met five al-Qaida fighters, all of whom he described as Arabs. Paracha’s assertion that he went to Tora Bora and consulted with al-Qaida functionaries comes as U.S. military operations in the region are ending.

In the course of his meeting with the al-Qaida members, one of the groups contacted another al-Qaida camp.

It was during the phone conversation that Paracha states that he heard the voice of bin Laden. He believes that the location of the other camp is in an area within Afghanistan.

Paracha declared that a number of al-Qaida fighters remain in eastern Afghanistan, finding aid and support from local Pashtun tribes.

Corriere della Sera cited sources in the Pakistani Ministry of the Interior who claim that Pakistan still has some 40,000 troops on its border with Afghanistan, despite the current crisis with India.

The Afghan-Pakistani border may become an even more dangerous area for the remnants of al-Qaida.

According to a British Broadcasting Corporation report, Gen. Tommy Franks, the top U.S. general in the region, stated that the U.S. and the Pakistani government have agreed to allow U.S. troops into Pakistan in “hot pursuit” situations.

The agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan marks the first time that U.S. troops have been allowed to carry out offensive operations in Pakistan.

Franks also stated the American operations in the Tora Bora cave complex were concluding, the BBC reported.

As U.S. operations in Afghanistan are scaling down – though the hunt for bin Laden continues – other regions may become involved in America’s war on terror.

Observers note that several nations now experiencing unrest caused by militant Islam could be offered U.S. aid.

One such nation is the Philippines, which has experienced a decades-long Muslim guerrilla insurrection. One of the armed bands seeking independence is the Abu Sayyaf group, which is associated with the al-Qaida terror network.

Abu Sayyaf, which operates in the Muslim dominated area in the south Philippines, acquires money for its activities primarily through kidnapping. Since May the group has held an American missionary couple for ransom.

U.S. relations with the Philippines generally have been very good, and Manila can be expected to fully cooperate with U.S. actions against terrorists operating in the islands.

The Philippines is predominately Christian, with a Muslim minority located primarily in the south. A Spanish colony until 1898, the Philippines became an American possession when Madrid ceded the islands to the U.S. at the end of the Spanish-American War. The Philippines gained full independence from the U.S. in 1946 – a process delayed by the Japanese invasion during WWII.

Other possible targets in the U.S. war against terrorism include Somalia, Iraq and Indonesia – the largest Muslim nation in the world.

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