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January 10, 2002

US asks Kabul to hand over top Taliban leaders

10 January 2002 AFP

KABUL, Jan 9: The United States has demanded the handover of top Taliban leaders who were released after surrendering to Afghan authorities, as it interrogates two suspected Al Qaeda fighters captured in a raid on a cave complex.

The Taliban officials, including three former ministers and five other senior figures, were allowed to go free under a general amnesty after they turned themselves in to authorities in Kandahar province.

Provincial spokesman Khaled Pashtun said on Tuesday the members of the defeated fundamentalist regime had surrendered over the past month since their stronghold in Kandahar city fell to opposition forces. However, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said information from the Taliban figures could help in the search for their leader Mullah
Mohammad Omar and terror suspect Osama bin Laden.

Obviously, individuals of that stature in the Taliban leadership are of great interest to the United States, and we would expect that they would be turned over, absolutely," he said.

"I can say that from the beginning what we want out of this is the al-Qaeda leadership and the Taliban leadership and, of course, that would include bin Laden and that would include Omar," he said.

Myers said US forces in eastern Afghanistan seeking to wipe out the last of the Taliban, and the al-Qaeda terror network it harboured, had captured a group of 14 Al Qaeda fighters and detained two of them for interrogation.

They were captured late on Monday as US forces swept an area around a former Al Qaeda base in Paktia province, revealing a huge network of caves and underground bunkers, he said in Washington.

Laptop computers, cell phones, small arms and training manuals found with them were being examined by intelligence experts, he said, while the two fighters were transferred to a US camp near Kandahar.

"They become very interesting to us because they're a part of the worldwide network of terrorism that al-Qaeda supports," Myers said. "And so, we would hope to be gleaning, you know, information that might point to future
operations, other operatives and so forth."

Myers said US forces were now holding 364 al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects in Afghanistan and on a US ship off the Gulf of Oman, some of whom would be transferred "soon" to a US naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba.

The multinational peacekeeping force for Afghanistan is steadily building up to its expected full force of 4,500 by the end of the month, with new arrivals nearly every day.

The interior ministry said Afghan military units in Kabul have been ordered to withdraw to their barracks outside the capital within three days, to allow Afghan police and foreign peacekeepers to patrol the city.

"(Interior Minister Yunis) Qanooni has decided that all these military units affiliated to the defence ministry that took part in the conquest of Kabul should evacuate the city within three days," said Din Mohammad Jorat, chief of the law and order departement at the ministry.

"After that the peacekeeping force along with our police force will be patrolling the city," he told AFP.

Under an agreement signed between ISAF and the Afghan interim administration, the force is confined to Kabul and its environs and its powers are strictly limited.

In the latest plaudit for Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, US Congressman Frank Wolf said during a visit to Islamabad that he should remain in government once the administration's six-month term expires.

Wolf said Karzai's "honesty" would ensure that pledges of financial assistance to rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure would be channelled to the right projects rather than into someone's pocket.-AFP

Plea rejected

Authorities in Kandahar have refused to hand over Taliban officials to the United States. "We will not hand over such Taliban leaders to America. This is our own problem. They handed themselves in on their own," Mohammad Jalal, a spokesman for Kandahar governor Haji Gul Agha, said in an interview with AIP.-AFP © The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2002


Taliban officials surrender as Karzai backs bombing
By Jeremy Page

Wednesday January 9, 6:08 AM

KABUL (Reuters) - Three ministers in Afghanistan's vanquished Taliban regime have surrendered as Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said U.S. jets will continue to bomb targets until they find the world's most wanted men -- Osama bin Laden and his protector Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said both men were probably still in Afghanistan, but the trail had grown cold.

Abdullah said bombing raids should be better coordinated with Kabul's interim administration now that targets in the war against terrorism were becoming harder to find.

"Ministers of the Taliban and senior Taliban are coming one by one and surrendering and joining with us," Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for Gul Agha, the governor of the former Taliban power base of Kandahar, told Reuters by telephone.

He said any Taliban member who surrendered would be eligible for an amnesty -- except for the reclusive one-eyed cleric Mullah Omar.

Among those who surrendered were former minister of defence Mullah Obaidullah, former minister of mines Mullah Saadudin and former minister of justice Mullah Nooruddin Turabi -- notorious for blasting to bits the country's famed Bamiyan Buddha statues last year.

"We have released them," Pashtoon said. "...We promised them that if they came by themselves and surrendered we would not arrest them." But Pashtoon said they would not be able to move about freely "for their own security".

Refugees' repatriation may begin in April

The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2002
PESHAWAR, Jan 9: About 500,000 Afghan refugees may volunteer for repatriation in April if peace prevails in Afghanistan, a spokesman for Afghan Commissionerate told APP.

The repatriation would be carried out jointly by the Afghan Commissionerate NWFP and UNHCR, he added.

Each family, which opted for voluntary return, would be given a repatriation package -Rs6,000 as transportation charges, 300 kilogrammes of wheat and a plastic sheet, the spokesman said.

He clarified that a UNHCR team issued documents to the genuine repatriate refugees at verification points. The papers would help DPs' families receive the package inside Afghanistan at Jalalabad and Khost districts, he added.

Answering a question, the spokesman said four verification points - one each at Nawa Pass in Bajaur Agency, Takhta Baig in Khyber Agency, Alizai in Kurram Agency and Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan Agency - had been set up for the
repatriate refugees

In reply to another question, he said that unofficially 1,547 families comprising 12,790 individuals had repatriated voluntarily via Torkham border since December 5 last till date. Under the unofficial repatriation no package was offered, he added.

He also said that 12,000 DPs had been transferred by the UNHCR from Jalozai camp to the newly-setup refugee camps in Kotkay in Bajaur Agency while 2,000 shifted to Shalman Camp in Khyber Agency. Similarly, 513 families consisting
of 3,000 individuals had been shifted to Kurram Agency, he added
Iran's RCS extended rls 20 bn worth of relief aid to Afghans

Zahedan, Jan 10, IRNA -- Iran's Red Crescent Society (RCS) has so far extended rls 20 billion worth of relief aid to the Afghan people. The Head of Iran's RCS, Ahmad Nourbala told IRNA here Thursday,

"Four consignments have so far been dispatched to Afghanistan under Taliban, while after the recent events ten more were dispatched by road and six consignments sent by air were distributed among the war-stricken Afghans."

He added that while all international charity institutes had left Afghanistan Iran's RCS was present on the scene to the great surprise of the public to extend its services and distribute its relief supplies among people.

According to him, In the course of Afghanistan's 23-year-long war Iran's RCS has been helping the oppressed Afghans within its limits.

Referring to the establishment of Zarang clinic, he said that before the rule of Taliban, two hospitals had been set up by Iran's RCS in Herat and Mazar-i Sharif and several clinics and health centers constructed in some other
cities of Afghanistan.

Pointing to the fact that a number of RCS health centers and clinics were destroyed under the rule of Taliban, he said the reconstruction of such centers including the clinic in Zarang are already underway and it is due to be converted into a health complex.

Referring to holding training courses in Afghanistan, he said that once it is approved by the authorities of both countries the scheme will be realized.

Underlining the voluntary return of Afghan migrants to their homeland, Nourbala said, "Considering the establishment of peace in Afghanistan, the migrants residing in Makaki and Miles 46 camps may return home if they wish."

He concluded, "We try to distribute the relief supplies donated by RCS among the urban and rural dents."


3,250 Afghans in no-man's land: UNHCR
By Our Staff Reporter

10 January 2002

ISLAMABAD, Jan 9: The number of Afghan refugees in the no-man's land along the Chaman border has swelled to 3,250 as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees continues to press Pakistan for opening the borders while acknowledging its security concerns for stopping the infiltration of fighters.

Speaking at a news conference here on Tuesday, UNHCR spokesperson, Yousaf Hasan, said discussions were continuing with the border authorities to allow more people camping out into the nearby transit centre.

Earlier, a UNHCR press release said Pakistan had reinforced security and closed the border over the weekend.

The UNHCR said the refugees were fleeing due to the lack of international aid and the fear of bombing as the search continued in southern Afghanistan for Taliban leader Mulla Mohammed Omar and Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Appreciating the heightened security concerns at the border with Afghanistan, the UNHCR, in a statement, insisted that borders remain open for innocent people fleeing for safety.

Previous calls by UNHCR to both Pakistan and Iran to open their borders to the refugees were also rejected by the two countries, who argue that the international community has given them little help in dealing with 3.5
million Afghans already in their territories.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR was making contingency plans for significant numbers of Afghan refugees to return to their country this year, with tens of thousands having already made the homeward journey in recent weeks.

In the past, the agency had cautioned against a massive, disorganised return of Afghans to their country because of the omnipresence of landmines and the destruction caused by two decades of war.

The return figure from Iran and Pakistan since the end of November is about 80,000 - 35,000 from Pakistan and 45,000 from Iran.

While more refugees continue to return home than those who arrive in Pakistan and Iran, the UNHCR and other organisations have to deal with a wave of uprooted people fleeing southern and eastern Afghanistan because continuing
insecurity has prevented them from distributing aid there.

On Sunday, UNHCR opened its eighth border camp for refugees in Pakistan, with more than 1,000 uprooted people entering the Shelman camp in the NWFP. They were relocated from Jalozai.

Since November 2001, the spokesman said, the UNHCR has moved more than 92,000 new arrivals, 68,400 in Baluchistan and 23,700 in the NWFP, into new camps.

At least 3,327 refugees remain in the Killi Faizo transit centre near the Chaman border crossing, he said.

APP adds: Some 200,000 Afghans are estimated to have entered Pakistan since last September, most living with relatives in refugee settlements or in urban areas, a UNHCR spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"There are currently some 95,000 newly arrived Afghans settled in nine UNHCR-assisted camps in Pakistan, split between the south-western Balochistan province and the North-Western Frontier Province," the spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, UNHCR staff in the NWFP had relocated more than 1,800 Afghans, including some 1,000 recent arrivals from Jalozai and more than 800 undocumented Afghans living in Peshawar city who came forward seeking UN assistance and protection, to the new camps.

Some 20,000 refugees have been relocated from Jalozai since November. Another 2,000 refugees living in Peshawar have been shifted to the camps.-APP © The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2002

Japan's special envoy Ogata arrives in Afghanistan

Kabul, Jan 9, IRNA-KYODO -- Japan's Special Envoy on Afghan Affairs Sadako Ogata arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday on a fact-finding mission aimed at laying the ground for a forum on Afghanistan's reconstruction to be held in
Tokyo later this month. Ogata, who flew to Bagram Air Base north of the capital Kabul, will inspect the site of returning evacuees on Shomali plains near the air base during the day. She will then hold talks with Hamid Karzai, head of the Interim Afghan Government, on Thursday, officials said. Karzai is to attend the conference as head of an Afghan delegation that includes at least four cabinet members. Ogata, formerly UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will visit the key western Afghan city of Herat on Friday to inspect the situation of internally displaced persons, which is the worst in the
country, the officials said. The envoy, who will co-chair the January 21-22 Tokyo Gathering told reporters Tuesday in Pakistan, the first leg of her three-nation tour, and the donor countries and international organizations are due to meet at the session expected to provide a mixture of grants and loans to finance the reconstruction and development work in Afghanistan. She will also visit Iran to meet President Seyed Mohammad Khatami, the officials said. Iran is one of more than 50 countries, which are expected to attend the Tokyo session. NA/NA/AR End ::irna 00:29

Iran sending top delegation to Kabul on Afghan reconstruction

Tehran, Jan 9, IRNA -- Iran is sending a high-ranking delegation, headed by the country's Deputy Foreign Minister, Sadeq Kharrazi, to Kabul on Thursday to hold talks with Afghan officials over the rehabilitation of the war-shattered country. According to the public relations office of the Foreign Ministry, the Iranian delegation will meet with the head of the
Afghan interim government, Hamid Karzai, and his cabinet ministers of education and culture during the two-day stay. The delegation is comprised of representatives of Iran's foreign, culture and education portfolios as well as at least two high-profile organizations, it added. The visit takes place right on the heels of Iran's Deputy Foreign Minster for Asia and Pacific Affairs, Mohsen Aminzadeh's last week travel to Afghanistan. Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had earlier visited Afghanistan to participate at Karzai's inauguration. Aminzadeh met with Karzai, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, and other state officials and intimated the Islamic Republic's readiness to participate actively in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, reeling from more than two decades of war. Iran held a seminar in Tehran this week on the Afghan ehabilitation, which was attended by scores of experts as well as Afghan officials. "Iran is trying to fulfill its commitments regarding the reconstruction of Afghanistan," Aminzadeh said at the inauguration of the seminar. BH/AR End ::irna 22:45
U.S. warns Iran as Afghanistan prisoners flown to Cuba

By Saul Hudson and John Fullerton

Friday January 11, 6:39 AM

WASHINGTON/KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush bluntly warned Iran on Thursday against harbouring al Qaeda guerrillas fleeing from neighbouring Afghanistan as the United States flew its first batch of captives to Cuba.

Challenging Tehran to cooperate actively in his war on terrorism, Bush said he would deal in "diplomatic ways, initially" with any attempt to undermine the interim government that has replaced the ousted Taliban.

"We would hope ... they wouldn't allow al Qaeda murderers to hide in their country. We would hope that if that be the case, if someone tries to flee into Iran, that they would hand them over to us," Bush told reporters.

Following the rout of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, debate in the United States has centred on where Bush might next unleash U.S. military might as he battles to eradicate the threat of guerrilla networks.

Some hawkish lawmakers have urged action against long-standing enemy Iraq and the U.S. military has stepped up aerial surveillance along the coast of Somalia to watch out for suspected guerrilla camps.

But Bush turned the spotlight on Iran amid increased concern in his administration the Islamic state wanted to exert its influence around its border with Afghanistan.

Witnesses have described seeing dozens of Arab families and al Qaeda fighters making their way over the border into Iran.

The New York Times on Thursday cited U.S. military and intelligence officials as saying Iran has given safe haven to some al Qaeda fighters and its agents have tried to thwart U.S.-supported programs in western Afghanistan. Tehran denied the allegations.

Washington launched its war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7 to hunt down Osama bin Laden, whom it accuses of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks that killed around 3,000 people in New York and Washington, and punish his Taliban protectors.

U.S. bombing helped local Afghan forces topple the hard-line militia in weeks, but Washington's main targets, bin Laden and Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, remain elusive.

DETAINEES MOVED OUT

Small arms gunfire erupted as the United States began transferring some of its most dangerous "battlefield detainees" from southern Afghanistan to a U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

With plans to possibly sedate and hood the captives, a huge U.S. military C-17 aircraft flew 20 of the more than 300 prisoners from Kandahar air base bound for Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The men were flown out in two lots of 10 each, dressed in orange jumpers, chained and with their beards shaven, CNN said. Their beards, mandatory under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban, had been shaved for reasons of hygiene, it quoted U.S. military officials as saying.

Some small arms fire was directed at U.S. troops on the base after the aircraft took off, but the C-17 was not fired at, Marine Corps Maj. Brad Lowell, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, told Reuters. No injuries were reported as a result of the gunfire, which came from outside the base, Lowell added.

Permanently leased on Cuba, the U.S. Navy base's isolation provides security while denying the prisoners rights they might be afforded if they landed on U.S. soil. If they were to be tried at the base, the captives would not be able to appeal to a U.S. federal court.

While the United States has said it will treat the prisoners humanely, it has avoided calling the captives "prisoners of war." Such a label would entitle them to rights embodied in the Geneva Convention and could lead to their release after the fighting in Afghanistan ends.

Hundreds of U.S. military police and Marine Corps reinforcements have been flown to the "Gitmo" base, as it is called, in Cuba.

The prisoners, considered dangerous and possibly suicidal, will be held in tough conditions inside a compound ringed by two fences topped with razor wire. For most of the day they will be held in small cells with a concrete floor and chain-link walls, with spotlights on at night.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. military is holding more than 300 prisoners at a base in Kandahar and others at Bagram air base near Kabul, at Mazar-i-Sharif and aboard the Navy helicopter assault ship USS Bataan in the northern Indian Ocean.

U.S. PRESSES HUNT, BOMBING

U.S. ground troops combed eastern Afghan mountains for more fugitives and U.S. warplanes bombed a bin Laden base.

U.S. jets attacked positions around Zhawar Kili, a training camp some 19 miles (30 km) southwest of Khost. The area has come under air attack for days in the hunt for remnant Taliban and fighters of bin Laden's al Qaeda, the private Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.

Several helicopters ferried in about 50 U.S. troops to eastern Khost, taking the number in the area to about 150.

Despite protests at the bombing, which has claimed scores, if not hundreds, of civilian casualties, Afghanistan Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai has said air raids must continue until they can achieve their goal.

In his first television address to the nation late on Wednesday, Karzai urged unity to create a national army.

He spoke hours after the new government ordered armed men off streets and soldiers back to barracks. Citing lawlessness on Afghanistan's dilapidated roads where travelers are frequent prey for bandits, Karzai said the situation was being tackled.

As part of a plan to demilitarize Kabul, unarmed soldiers scurried around a former Soviet military base preparing a fleet of battered Russian-made tanks to withdraw from the capital.

More than two dozen World War Two-era T-38 tanks were parked in line at the Khairkhana base on the city's northern edge as soldiers muzzled their cannon barrels.

While Afghans focused on rebuilding, Americans received a chilling reminder on Wednesday of the continuing risks in the military campaign that has so far seen few U.S. casualties.

Seven Marines were killed when a refueling plane crashed in flames into a mountain near a remote airport in southwestern Pakistan.

The fiery crash appeared to be accidental and not due to enemy fire, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Thursday.

"My understanding is that there is no evidence that it was anything other than an aircraft crash," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon media briefing.

US base in Kandahar comes under fire: military spokesman

Friday January 11, 4:21 AM AFP

A US base in Kandahar came under small arms fire from unidentified assailants Thursday shortly after a US military transport plane took off with the first group of prisoners from Afghanistan to a US navy base in Cuba, a military spokesman said.

Assailants penetrated the perimeter of the base at the Kandahar airport on foot at a couple of locations and US troops responded with machine gun and small arms fire, a Marine lieutenant at the base said.

"The forward operating base in Kandahar has received small arms fire at about 1125 EST (1625 GMT) today. Marines at the base and Afghan forces are in the process of dealing with that threat," said Navy Commander Frank Merriman, a spokesman for the US Central Command, told AFP.

"The reports indicate no injuries in the initial exchange of fire," he said by telephone from the command's headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

A US Air Force C-17 transport carrying the first group of prisoners to the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had taken off about 20 minutes before the shooting erupted, Merriman said.

"At no time was the aircraft in danger, nor did it perform any evasive maneuvers," he said.

No one was apprehended in the immediate aftermath of the attack and it was not immediately known who carried it out or what their objective was, Merriman said.

But he said there were still pockets of Taliban and al-Qaeda supporters in the country "and you just never know when they are going to pop up. But we don't know exactly who these folks are at this point in time."

Assailants on foot probed the perimeter of the base at the Kandahar airport at a couple of different locations, Lieutenant James Jarvis, a Marine Corps spokesman at the scene told CNN.

"As a result of that we engaged them with both small arms fire as well as heavy machine guns and we sent out both US and opposition groups for anti-Taliban force patrols to investigate those sites," he said.

"Quite simply this is a very large piece of ground," he said. "We had some foot mobile folks that were able to penetrate our lines. We quickly eradicated the threat. We sent out a patrol to see if anyone still exists there, and quite simply they're not there any more."

Karzai dismisses circumstances of Taliban release

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The leader of Afghanistan's interim government Thursday dismissed the circumstances surrounding a decision not to hold what had been described as seven top Taliban government officials who surrendered in Kandahar this week.

In an interview with CNN, Hamid Karzai, chairman of the interim government, said four or five of the Taliban officials were not on a list of people the United States wanted detained and another was a case of mistaken identity. In any case, Karzai said, all had agreed to surrender weapons on the condition they not be arrested.

Earlier in the week, however, the Pentagon had expressed interest in talking with the men.

"Obviously, individuals of that stature in the Taliban leadership are of great interest to the United States, and we would expect that they would be turned over, absolutely," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday.

According to local Kandahar officials, the most notable among the seven were Obaidullah Akhund, former defense minister; Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, former justice minister, who was in charge of enforcing the Taliban's rigid religious laws; and Mullah Saadudin, minister of mines and industry. They said none of the men was charged with crimes.

The Taliban officials surrendered to Gul Agha Sherzai, who is in charge of the Kandahar region. Government officials were trying to determine who allowed the seven to return to their home villages and why, said interim Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad.

Though U.S. forces expressed interest in the men, officers in Kandahar said Tuesday they accepted the Afghan decision to let them go, and have given no indication they are pursuing them, sources said.

The Afghan interim leader promised cooperation despite the missed opportunity. "Those that the United States wants will be turned over to the United States. We have made that pledge and we will go with it," Karzai said. "The good and bad will be differentiated and separated." Tops on America's most-wanted list are suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Even as U.S. officials admit their trails have grown cold, the Afghan leader said the hunt goes on "very strongly."

"We had information about last week that Mullah Omar was somewhere in western Afghanistan ... in a mountainous area. We sent people to look for him," Karzai said. "We could not find him, but we will keep looking for both these persons and they will be arrested. It's just a question of time."

Meanwhile at the Kandahar airport, U.S. forces were waiting to be told when flights carrying al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners will leave for the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The total number of detainees being kept at the air field swelled to 351 with the addition of 45 on Wednesday night.

The detainees were to travel in groups of 15 to 20. The trip will not be nonstop, military sources said, because the air field at Kandahar where the detainees are being kept cannot handle a big Air Force transport.

As part of precautionary measures, military officials will not disclose the route the flight will take.

Pentagon officials said U.S. Air Force crews who will provide security for the flights have received special training at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Security dogs trained in Kandahar may also make the trip to Cuba.

U.S. officials also are considering sedating the prisoners during the flight.

Plane crash kills seven U.S. Marines in Pakistan

By David Fox and Christopher Wilson

KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven U.S. Marines were killed when a military refuelling plane crashed in flames in a remote corner of Pakistan. In neighbouring Afghanistan, American jets repeatedly pounded an al Qaeda guerrilla complex.

U.S. officials described Wednesday's crash as an accident and said it was under investigation.

As Washington pressed on with its campaign to crush Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, urged Afghan factions to work together to restore security to a nation riven by two decades of conflict.

"Let us join together and make a national army," he said on Wednesday, speaking in Dari, the Afghan Persian used in the north.

Karzai, looking ahead to meetings this month in Kabul and Tokyo on funding reconstruction, outlined plans to restore order by controlling inflation, promoting industry and creating jobs.

He pledged to foster a market economy and stop the printing of bank bills that were not backed by the government.

In a bid to improve safety in the capital Kabul, the government ordered all armed men, except police and official security forces, to leave the city and return to their bases.

Karzai told the U.S. television network CNN on Thursday that apart from some "lawlessness" on local highways, there had only been isolated incidents in the last two to three weeks.

The arrival of a British-led international force, mandated by the United Nations, will boost security in Kabul. These troops are now moving into the city and will total up to 5,000.

Washington launched its war in Afghanistan on October 7 to hunt down bin Laden, whom it accuses of masterminding September 11 attacks that killed around 3,000 people in New York and Washington, and punish his Taliban protectors.

U.S. bombing and local Afghan forces toppled the hardline militia in weeks, but Washington's main targets, bin Laden and Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, remain elusive.

CHILLING REMINDER

In a chilling reminder to Americans of the risks of a military campaign that has so far seen few U.S. casualties, the refuelling plane with seven Marines on board hit a mountain near a remote airport in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday.

The aircraft crashed as it was coming into land at a base used by American forces near Shamsi, about 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) northeast of Panjur, Pakistan, closer to the frontier with Iran than the border with Afghanistan.

Flames raged at the scene of the crash for several hours.

"Rescue crews are working their way to the aircraft at this time," Marine Corps spokesman Major Chris Hughes told a news conference in Kandahar. "The incident is under investigation."

In eastern Afghanistan, Washington kept up its relentless bombing of the Zhawar Kili caves, a vast underground complex where fighters from the Taliban and bin Laden's al Qaeda network had tried to regroup.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said attacks were focused on Zhawar, 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Khost.

"American jets began bombing the area overnight and continued into Thursday morning. There was no information about casualties," said AIP, quoting unnamed sources.

Several helicopters ferried in about 50 U.S. ground troops to eastern Khost, taking the total number of U.S. personnel in the area to about 150, it added.

U.S. forces captured on Monday two senior al Qaeda fighters near the Zhawar Kili caves, along with computers, cell phones and other valuable intelligence material.

The prisoners are being interrogated to see if they can provide any clues on the whereabouts of bin Laden or Mullah Omar.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department made clear that it wanted all senior Taliban officials who surrendered to be detained for questioning and not released under amnesty.

They were responding to reports from the spokesman of the governor of Kandahar that three former Taliban ministers had been freed after surrendering to the southern city's authorities.

The trio were the former minister of defence, Mullah Obaidullah, the former minister of mines, Mullah Saadudin, and the former minister of justice, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi.

"We have said before that we believe that senior Taliban officials should be taken into custody," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"We would expect that to be the case with these three individuals. I'm sure we'll be looking into this matter further."

U.S. forces are preparing to transport some 368 al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where secure facilities are being built to hold as many as 2,000 detainees from the war in Afghanistan.
Afghan leader pledges free speech as US planes pound al-Qaeda base

Thursday January 10, 4:06 PM AFP

Afghanistan's leader Hamid Karzai pledged his commitment to free speech and a market economy, as US war planes renewed their pounding of a former al-Qaeda training camp.

The aerial attack came as the US suffered its worst air disaster since the start of the US-led coalition campaign in October when a Marine Corps KC-130 air refueling aircraft crashed into a mountain in southwestern Pakistan.

The Pentagon said the incident happened while the aircraft was making an approach to land at a forward operating base near Shamsi, about 200 miles (320 kilometres) outside the provincial capital, Quetta, Wednesday evening.

With the coalition concentrating on the hunt for chief terror suspect Osama bin Laden, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and their fighters, the country's interim leader hunkered down to the business of governance Wednesday.

In his first televised address to the nation since being sworn in on December 22, Karzai said the Afghan constitution would "guarantee freedom of speech and of the press, and also political and social freedom.

"The interim administration supports a free market," he said. "Social and economic progress in our country is dependent on a free market economy and private sector development."

However, Karzai, without elaborating, cautioned that freedom of economy and speech was limited by "national interest".

Karzai, whose administration will run Afghanistan for six months, also said the greatest threat to peace and security in the country was the number of guns on the streets.

"The rule of the gun is the greatest obstacle to everlasting peace and security in our country," he said.

He said he had given instructions to his security chiefs that armed factions should be incorporated into a national army as soon as possible.

This army "can meet any threats to the national security of our country's independence and territorial independence," he added.

A government official told AFP earlier Wednesday that Interior Minister Yunus Qanooni had ordered the Afghan military to quit Kabul within three days and leave security duties in the capital to Afghan police and an international peacekeeping force.

"After that, the peacekeeping force along with our police force will be patrolling the city," said Din Mohammad Jorat, chief of the law and order department at the ministry.

The 17-nation UN-mandated force, which is under the command of British Major General John McColl, has already started deploying in the country and should reach its full strength of 4,500 by the end of the month.

Karzai pledged that Afghanistan, as "an active member of the United Nations" would be "faithful to all international laws and norms".

The interim leader also said he would respect the UN-brokered Bonn agreement's timetable towards the restoration of democracy in the country.

"The Bonn agreement has accorded great importance to the convening of an emergency loya jirga," he said, referring to a council of tribal elders that will appoint a transitional authority to take the place of the six-month interim administration he heads.

"The emergency loya jirga will be convened on time and will be inaugurated by a speech of his majesty the former king," he said, referring to ousted king Mohammad Zahir Shah, who has been living in Rome since 1973.

Meanwhile, the US aerial bombardment of the sprawling al-Qaeda compound and cave complex began late Wednesday and continued until Thursday morning in the Zhawar region of the eastern Khost province, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.

Fifty more US soldiers were flown in to the area by helicopter late Wednesday to join the 100 already there, the Pakistan-based news agency added.

US ground forces launched an operation against the base on Sunday after days of softening up from B-52 and B-1 bombers, F/A-18 fighter jets and AC-130 gunships.

General Richard Myers, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday laptop computers, cell phones, small arms and training manuals found with two captured fighters, suspected to be senior al-Qaeda members, were being examined by intelligence experts.

The Zhawar base was the target of a retaliatory US cruise missile attack in 1998 after the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, allegedly masterminded by bin Laden.

Afghan leader outlines plans to restore country

Thursday January 10, 12:19 PM
By Jeremy Page

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's interim leader outlined his plans on Wednesday for restoring order to his war-weary country, just hours after the new government ordered armed men off streets and soldiers back to barracks in battered Kabul.

Confusion surrounded the fate of three ministers from the vanquished Taliban militia -- possibly rich sources of clues to the whereabouts of their leaders -- who were reported to have surrendered but then been allowed to go free under surveillance.

More al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners filled U.S. detention camps in Afghanistan while U.S. jets prowled the skies to bomb possible hideouts of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born militant accused of orchestrating the September 11 attacks on the United States.

In an address on television -- a medium banned by his Taliban predecessors -- Karzai laid out a brief blueprint for restoring economic and political stability.

"Let us join together and make a national army," he said, speaking in Dari, the Afghan Persian used in the north.

Karzai said he would control inflation, nurture manufacture of Afghan products, aim to create jobs and foster a market economy.

His government would stop the printing of unsupported afghani banknotes. Several different groups have printed Afghan currency in recent years, leading to a proliferation of bills not backed by the government.

The interim administration would not restrict the media if they did not damage national interests, he said.

The government also ordered all armed men except police and official security personnel to leave Kabul and return to their military bases, Interior Minister Yunis Qanuni said.

GUNS OFF THE STREETS

The government appointed at a U.N.-backed meeting in Bonn last month began on Tuesday to enforce a plan to disarm a city awash with firearms after 23 years of war, Qanuni told Reuters.

"The government decided yesterday to implement the security agreement as it was agreed in Bonn," he said. "All people armed with weapons or ammunition are not allowed to walk in the streets.

"We have ordered all the armed people except security people and the police to leave the city and go to their old bases."

Thousands of loosely organised but heavily armed Northern Alliance troops have occupied Kabul since the fundamentalist Taliban militia fled the city on November 13.

Afghan men have for centuries regarded carrying a gun as virtually a birthright but the Taliban banned weapons on the streets except for security personnel.

SEARCHING FOR FUGITIVES

Heavily armed U.S. special forces conducted ground searches for Mullah Omar and bin Laden, and took two more prisoners this week in the eastern Khost area that has been heavily bombed in the last few days.

In Khost, some 200 U.S. marines arrived after tribal elders decided at a jirga, or council, that they could not hand over a fugitive teenager suspected of killing a U.S. soldier, witnesses said.

The jirga, attended by five U.S. personnel, met to decide the fate of a 14-year-old boy who has disappeared amid suspicions he killed the first U.S. soldier to die in hostile fire in the war.

"The elders of four tribes attending the meeting told the U.S. personnel that they could neither capture the boy nor hand him over to them," a witness said.

Hours later, some 200 U.S. troops arrived in the area for a possible search operation to recover the missing boy, he said.

The slain special forces soldier, identified as Sergeant 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, of San Antonio, Texas, last week became the first U.S. military casualty from hostile fire in the country, apparently killed in an ambush.

U.S. officials may not be satisfied with plans to grant amnesty to Taliban members who surrender but who could provide vital intelligence -- such as the three Taliban ministers whose fate was shrouded in confusion.

A spokesman for the Kandahar governor said on Tuesday the former ministers of defence, justice and mines and industry had surrendered to authorities there and had then been released. But they would not be able to move freely "for their own security".

Only Mullah Omar would not be eligible for an amnesty, said the spokesman, Khalid Pashtoon.

AMNESTY WELCOME?

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said the reclusive cleric who founded the Taliban and bin Laden, whom Washington accuses of masterminding the September 11 attacks, were likely to be still in Afghanistan, but the trail had gone cold.

Following reports on Tuesday that three former cabinet ministers had surrendered, Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington wanted Kabul to hand them over for questioning.

Pashtoon said Taliban who surrendered would be protected and granted amnesties unless charges were filed against them

Afghan Prisoners Going to Gray Area

Military Unsure What Follows Transfer to U.S. Base in Cuba

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 9, 2002; Page A01

As the Pentagon prepares to move al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners to a U.S. Navy base in Cuba, it is embarking on a legally and logistically uncharted course that senior defense officials acknowledge is being undertaken without a clear idea of what comes next.

More than 1,000 U.S. troops have begun moving to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay to bolster security and build facilities to hold as many as 2,000 detainees from the war in Afghanistan.

The number of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners held by U.S. forces has grown to 364, and the military plans to start transferring "the first contingent" to Guantanamo Bay "soon," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday.

But the legal status of the detainees remains unclear. The United States has not recognized them as prisoners of war, nor has it charged them with any crimes. Up to now, U.S. military and intelligence personnel have focused on interrogating them for information on the whereabouts of senior al Qaeda and Taliban figures and any planned terrorist attacks.

"It's fair and accurate to say that we are still determining what types of people go into what kind of basket," said Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokeswoman.

Senior defense officials said they expect some of the detainees will face military tribunals, but that many -- perhaps a majority -- will eventually be repatriated to their home countries.

"For the long term, you don't want to have them in Afghanistan," another senior defense official said. "Until we can figure out the long-term plan, this is the right thing to do."

Although the Bush administration says it has not made any decisions about where to hold military tribunals, defense officials and legal analysts said Guantanamo Bay is the likely spot to try detainees, and possibly imprison them if they are convicted.

"I can't imagine why we'd hold the detainees there and try them somewhere else," a senior defense official said.

Military legal specialists say that holding trials at Guantanamo Bay, which has been leased from the Cuban government since 1903 and is not on U.S. soil, would work in the government's favor because the prisoners would not be allowed to challenge their detention in U.S. federal court.

"The government wants to keep them out of any place in the U.S. where they can claim protections," said Michael F. Noone, a former Air Force attorney who is a professor of law at Catholic University here.

The Pentagon is preparing to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay for a long time if necessary, defense officials said. "This is not going to be a short-term operation," said Army Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman with a military joint task force at the base.

The base, which has a population of about 2,700 Americans, including military family members and contractors, is bracing for a big influx. Arriving troops are building interim facilities to hold the detainees, converting an area that between 1994 and 1996 held 50,000 Cuban and Haitian refugees considered to be relatively low security risks. "They're beefing them up so that they will serve as temporary high-security facilities," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Rick Evans, the base spokesman.

Soldiers are setting up several perimeters of chain link and razor wire fences. The detainees will be held in "individual cell-type structures" that will have overhead cover to protect them from sun and rain, Evans said.

There are plans to replace the interim facilities with more permanent structures as soon as possible, officials said.

An initial allotment is being made for $30 million to $40 million on construction of the detention center, and an additional $20 million to $30 million for operations, a defense official said. Court facilities would have to be built if tribunals are held at Guantanamo Bay.

The transfer of the prisoners to a base across the globe from Afghanistan is an enormous undertaking.

"I don't think anything like this has ever happened before," said Steve Lucas, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which has responsibility for Guantanamo Bay. "For the movement of these kinds of prisoners, people who are murderously suicidal, I don't think there's precedent."

Senior defense officials said a first group of 40 to 50 detainees will likely be sent to Cuba in the next few days, and the rest over the next several weeks. Defense officials describe the preparations for up to 2,000 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as an outside contingency, but they say the number eventually taken to the base may be significantly more than the 364 in U.S. custody as Afghan forces and the Pakistan government turn over additional Taliban or al Qaeda members.

"We've been going up 20 to 25 every day," a senior defense official said. "We don't expect that to change in the near-term."

The growing numbers present a dilemma for the Pentagon. "We're not interested in keeping a large number of detainees," Clarke said.

Eventually, some may be classified as prisoners of war, meaning they would likely be released once hostilities are deemed to have ended. But for now, the Pentagon insists on calling them detainees.

"Pretty early on, the administration was careful to say these people could not claim the protections of the Geneva Convention," which governs the treatment of prisoners in wartime, Noone said.

To qualify as prisoners of war, combatants must meet criteria laid out by the Geneva Convention, including adhering to conventions of warfare, wearing a uniform with recognizable insignia, being subject to a chain of command, and carrying arms openly.

Military law experts said there are legitimate legal questions as to whether the al Qaeda and Taliban fighters meet that definition. "If you don't fit those requirements, you're not a POW," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. "It's not as if the government is doing a tap dance."

Pentagon officials said they are treating the detainees as prisoners of war in all but name, allowing visits from Red Cross officials, providing medical care and allowing religious observances. "We're acting as if the Geneva Convention applies," a senior defense official said.

The detainees will be flown from Kandahar aboard U.S. military aircraft, guarded by a heavy contingent of military police. The movement of the first contingent may take several days, one defense official said.

"It's a very, very sensitive and high-security movement, not only because of the fact they've demonstrated a willingness to abrogate surrender terms and kill other people, but because they have sympathizers at large," Lucas said.

Hundreds of people, including a CIA operative, died after a prisoner uprising at Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan in November, and more than a dozen were killed when al Qaeda prisoners wrestled weapons from their Pakistani captors in another incident last month.

"We plan to use the necessary amount of constraint so that those individuals do not kill Americans in transport or in Guantanamo Bay," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week.

Military police being sent to Cuba are undergoing specialized training to prepare for the mission, Lucas said.

A senior defense official said he considered it unlikely that John Walker, the American Taliban soldier captured in the fighting around Mazar-e Sharif, would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay. "It's not for American citizens," the official said. "He's in a category all by himself."

The United States seized Guantanamo Bay in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. After Spain's defeat, Cuba gave control of the base to the United States. The base was later leased in perpetuity to the United States, an agreement that can only be revoked if both countries agree.

Since the communist revolution in 1959, Cuba has objected to the continued U.S. presence. But President Fidel Castro has not raised objections to the Bush administration's plans to use of Guantanamo Bay to hold detainees, telling two visiting U.S. senators last week that Cuba wishes to cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism.

Guantanamo Bay, which Rumsfeld described last month as "the least worst place we could have selected," affords the administration a number of advantages that other bases in the United States or elsewhere in the world do not.

Most obvious is the security that comes with its isolation, on an island controlled by a communist government, and the base's perimeter secured by a heavily guarded no-man's land. "Unless the Cubans attacked us, they'd have to come by sea or air," a senior defense official said.

U.S. may sedate Afghan detainees during flights

January 10, 2002 Posted: 4:57 AM EST (0957 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The transport of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees is considered so dangerous that the Pentagon is considering administering Valium to them to keep them sedated during the 15-hour flight from Kandahar to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Officials emphasize that no final decision has been made on using the drug but that the idea of sedating the detainees for the trip from Afghanistan remains under consideration.

Pentagon officials said U.S. Air Force crews that will provide security for the transfer flights have received special training at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

Officials said a number of other measures are being taken to ensure the prisoners are kept under control during the flights, including using secure enclosures on the planes to confine the prisoners.

The total number of detainees being kept at the Kandahar air field swelled to 351 with the addition of 45 on Wednesday night. The detainees are to travel in groups of 15 to 20.

The detainees are being treated as though they were "prisoners of war" but they have not been declared as such formally under the Geneva Convention.

As "detainees," they could be held in some "indeterminate" status for a period of time. They will be interrogated but no decisions have been made about which individuals will be sent to military tribunal and how those tribunals will be held

The flights taking the detainees from Afghanistan to Guantanamo won't be nonstop, military sources said Wednesday, because the air field at Kandahar where the detainees are being kept cannot handle a big Air Force transport.

The plane selected for the main part of the mission is the aging C-141, an aircraft with intercontinental range. However, it is not able to land at Kandahar because the field is too rough.

Instead, another plane -- probably the smaller C-17, with its short landing and takeoff characteristics -- would be the likely choice for the first hop out of Afghanistan. The four-engine C-17 jet can land on a runway only 3,000 feet long and 90 feet wide, according to a document from the Department of Defense.

The detainees would be flown initially to an undisclosed secure location. The prisoners would then be transferred to specially outfitted C-141s for the final leg to Guantanamo, where they will be held in a new detention facility to be overseen by the U.S. Southern Command.

Military officials will not disclose the actual route of the flight as a precaution.

The flights could begin as soon as this week, officials have said.


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