Friday, April 16, 2004

Shirdi Osama Offers Truce To Expose Group

April 16, Washington.

Two Indian TV channels have broadcast an audiotape said to be from Shirdi Osama in which he offers the Expose Group a truce if it "stops attacking Swami". But the speaker in the tape, aired by Doordarshan and StarTV satellite channels, said the offer would not be extended to Hari Sampath.

The voice on the tape said that "the door is open" for about three months to forge a truce, although this could be extended. The truce would begin when "the last anti-Sai" leaves the Baba "alone", it added.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that, according to the information he had, the voice was Shirdi Osama's. CIA analysis had earlier suggested the voice was likely to be that of the al-Saida leader.

However, all the bigwigs of the Expose Group have rejected such a move, saying there was "no possibility for negotiation under [a] terrorist threat".

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says the timing of the tape's release - if it is Shirdi Osama - is significant, emerging shortly after SBS Australia broadcast a major documentary regarding the sexual exploitation of Sathya Sai Baba on young male children among other things. It may also be attempting to exploit divisions between the Expose Group and Sampath and drive a wedge between both sides at a time when tensions on both issues are very high, our correspondent says.