Tags: Terrorist | Caves | Blocked | Camp | Leveled

Terrorist Caves Blocked, Camp Leveled

Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM

"There are likely other valleys with other complexes and they may have other individuals," said Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem at a Pentagon news conference Monday.

Zawar Kili has been the focus of at least nine blistering bombing runs in about a week.

Special Forces soldiers were said to have understood exactly how much more bombing would be necessary to render the complex unusable only when they entered the area, about 3 miles by 3 miles with 60 buildings and 50 caves just a few miles from the Pakistan border. Al-Qaeda is believed to be attempting to regroup in the region.

Zawar Kili had been struck in November and three years before in a cruise missile attack in 1998, but those strikes were insufficient to put a dent in the largely underground complex.

"What was not known was how extensive a complex it was until we actually were on the ground and physically looking inside these caves to find out how extensive it was over the course of the weekend," Stufflebeem said. "We have leveled the remaining structures that were found on the surface, and we have closed all the caves that we would intend not be reoccupied. So I guess the best way to term it is: It's now time to go look elsewhere."

The strikes are intended to close the cave entrances, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said. The before-and-after strike photos provided by the military show tons of rubble blocking formerly open cave entrances. The military is using 2,000-pound bombs on the mountainsides to start avalanches over the caves where terrorists were known to live and hide.

"The goal is to disable that complex as completely as possible," Clarke said.

"We're fairly confident you will see al-Qaeda or Taliban trying to regroup," he said. "There are indicators there are elements and pockets that are still in this area, and therefore, our operating forces and the anti-Taliban forces are working systematically to find these caves, take them away, and, if they encounter anybody, to go ahead and engage them," he said.

Zawar Kili was still under bombardment Monday, according to CNN.

The U.S. military now holds almost 450 "extremely dangerous" prisoners, 20 of them at a high-security facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Thirty prisoners were en route to the jail, composed of open 6-by-8-foot cells, news reports said.

Clarke said the prisoners were getting three "culturally appropriate" meals, daily showers and daily medical care if it is needed at Guantanamo. She rejected liberal charges the conditions were inhumane. She said that International Committee of the Red Cross, which is normally accorded access to prisoners, would be allowed to see the detainees next week.

The Pentagon is careful not to call the detainees "prisoners." Prisoners of war have certain rights and protections under the Geneva Convention that the Pentagon does not want to be required to provide, though it asserts the prisoners are being treated humanely and in general accordance with international law.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained Friday why the Defense Department insists on the semantic accuracy: The fighters were not in official uniforms representing legitimate governments, and they carried concealed weapons and therefore the United States is not required to recognize them as lawful combatants, nor apply the protections of the Geneva Conventions to them.

"Unlawful combatants ... do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention," Rumsfeld said.

U.S. Marines and Army soldiers have 361 "detainees" at Kandahar and 52 in Bagram. Just one detainee, American Taliban guerrilla John Walker Lindh, who was injured in the terrorist uprising at a prison Mazar-i-Sharif, remains on the USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea.

Clarke said no decisions had been made about military tribunals for the detainees or the length of time they will be held without being formerly charged.

"All the details of what we're going to do with various detainees [are] still being worked out," she said.

In the United States, the Pentagon and the National Guard were considering changes to the combat air patrols that have been flying over New York and Washington and other randomly selected cities since Sept. 11, Stufflebeem confirmed.

Many National Guard fighter squadrons are on 15-minute strip alerts around the country, which means they can be aloft in a quarter of an hour if a threat is posed to an American city. North American Air Defense Command has scrambled jets more than 100 times since Sept. 11 in response to potential air emergencies.

"We're watching very carefully to see, are we putting undue stress on a system that can't accept it? And to date, it has been accepted. It's being looked at for how long to sustain it this way," Stufflebeem said.

Meanwhile, the remains of six Marines who died in a plane crash in Pakistan last week arrived at the mortuary facility at Dover Air Force Base, Del., late Sunday for processing and identification, according to Clarke.

The search continues for the seventh Marine killed when a KC-130 refueling plane crashed into a mountain as it prepared to land at Shamsi air base Jan. 9.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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There are likely other valleys with other complexes and they may have other individuals, said Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem at a Pentagon news conference Monday. Zawar Kili has been the focus of at least nine blistering bombing runs in about a week....
Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM
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