Tags: U.S. | Makes | Major | Attack | Terrorist | Camp

U.S. Makes Major Attack on Terrorist Camp

Thursday, 03 January 2002 12:00 AM

This time, the camp was manned by al-Qaeda members who were regrouping, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"There was lots of activity there," Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

Three years ago, nearly 70 Tomahawk cruise missiles hit the same camp but with little result. Osama bin Laden had been tipped off about the coming attack and fled just hours before the attack, according to Pentagon officials.

The strike aircraft dropped nearly 100 bombs, many of them 2,000-pound satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs, on the compound between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., according to a Pentagon official.

"They wanted to hit it pretty bad," the official told UPI. "We didn't want much to come out of it."

"It had a base camp, a training facility, and some cave pieces to that," Myers told reporters. "There was activity that warranted to be hit."

Rumsfeld defended the so-far fruitless search for bin Laden and Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who is believed to be hiding near Baghran in southern Afghanistan.

"One has to appreciate the difficulty of tracking down a single human being anywhere," Rumsfeld said. "I mean, obviously our goal is to find them, and we intend to keep pursuing that. But our real goal is to see that people are not committing terrorist acts."

The military has begun dropping propaganda leaflets that show dead terrorist fighters on one side and a possibly doctored picture of a man that could be bin Laden, without a beard or turban, in a coat and tie.

The copy reads, "Usama bin Laden the murderer and coward has abandoned al Qaida. He has abandoned you and run away. Give yourself up and do not die needlessly, you mean nothing to him. Save your families the grief and pain of your death."

Forces around Baghran are negotiating with as many as 1,500 Taliban fighters, and a surrender might include allowing Taliban leader Mullah Omar to escape as he did when Kandahar fell, according to local news reports.

Rumsfeld insisted the government of Afghanistan was committed to handing Omar over to the United States if he is caught.

"I know that the interim government is right on the same sheet of music with us with respect to this. They want the Taliban caught. They agree with us," he said.

In the meantime, Marines and Special Forces soldiers are combing caves and vacated buildings for documents, videotapes and other materials that could provide information about al-Qaeda's global terrorist network and future plots, "some of which ... has been fruitful in stopping terrorist acts, we believe, around the world," Myers said.

One of those foiled plots was a planned attack on Singapore by an al- Qaeda nest. The U.S. military passed on to the government of Singapore intelligence gathered in Afghanistan indicating an attack was being planned. Singapore police arrested 12 members in mid-December, just weeks before a U.S. aircraft carrier was scheduled to visit a deep-water port there. Two alleged terrorists evaded authorities and Singapore has yet to recover two tons of explosives to be used in the attack, Pentagon and CIA officials told United Press International last week.

Rumsfeld said the information gathered has helped disrupt al-Qaeda operations, communications, funding and most importantly, training.

"We've disrupted any number of training camps, and it does take training to become a polished, successful murderer, mass murderer," Rumsfeld said. "You don't walk out of grade school with that kind of knowledge. You need to practice and be taught by experts."

U.S. forces in the region now have 248 prisoners: 225 with the Marines in Kandahar, 14 at Bagram airfield, eight on the USS Bataan and one in Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Navy is building a high-security detention facility for a limited number of prisoners at a naval base in Guantamano Bay, Cuba.

"They are very hard cases for the most part," Rumsfeld said. "There have been three or four incidents where these folks have demonstrated their determination to kill themselves, kill others and/or escape. So it is important that the facilities be appropriate, and as soon as they're well enough along, we'll begin that process."

Moving the prisoners to Cuba will be the first security challenge.

"We plan to transport them, and we plan to use the necessary amount of constraint so that those individuals do not kill Americans in transport," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said some U.S. military bases "have vacancies" in their jails that could be filled by detainees if numbers required it.

"Needless to say, our desire is to not have a lot. That is not what we're about,- gathering up maximum numbers," Rumsfeld said. "We would like to make sure that the ones that ought to be secured so they don't go out and kill more people are, in fact, secured, and ones that need not be are not, and that, in every event, the maximum amount of intelligence is extracted from them first."

Pentagon officials say Afghan forces were expected to hand over two "very interesting" detainees to the United States within the next day, one Taliban and one al-Qaeda leader. They would give no further details on the men's identities but said at least one of them could provide a substantial amount of intelligence.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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This time, the camp was manned by al-Qaeda members who were regrouping, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. There was lots of activity there, Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. ...
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Thursday, 03 January 2002 12:00 AM
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