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|US Special Forces Captured|
|09/29/01 at 10:55:30|
Covert Ops Reported in Afghanistan
U.S. Team Reported Captured; No Comment from Pentagon
By Raja Asghar and Patricia Wilson
ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON (Sept. 29) - Reports of U.S. covert action inside Afghanistan swirled on Saturday after President George W. Bush said the United States was ''in hot pursuit'' of the man he blames for the suicide attacks on America.
A Gulf television station said that Afghan security forces had seized members of the U.S. special forces within the country, but the ruling Taliban swiftly denied the report. A Pentagon spokesman in Washington declined comment.
Later the foreign minister of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, told reporters he doubted that U.S. or allied British special forces were operating within Taliban-controlled areas of the country.
The conflicting reports came as pressure mounted on the hardline Muslim purists in Kabul to hand over the world's most wanted man, Saudi-born Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, and avoid U.S. attacks.
Despite the failure of a high-level delegation of Pakistani Muslim clerics on Friday to persuade the Taliban to hand over the fugitive, the 10-member group managed to secure agreement for more talks, Pakistani and Taliban officials said.
The Taliban have refused to hand over bin Laden, citing a centuries-old Afghan tradition that insists on hospitality for all who request help -- even at risk to the host's life.
Under siege from the rest of the world over their hospitality to bin Laden, and under attack from opposition fighters within, the Taliban's position has never appeared more perilous since they seized control of the country five years ago.
The movement's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has ordered all Afghans to return to their homes after the United Nations reported millions on the move, either trying to flee the country or at least reach safety in the countryside.
And he has warned his people that anyone helping the United States would face the wrath of his holy warriors.
Some 6,500 people are feared dead as a result of the September 11 attacks when hijackers rammed three planes into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington and a fourth hijacked aircraft crashed.
''THREE AMERICANS HELD''
President Bush has named bin Laden as the Americans' ''prime suspect'' in the attacks.
As a U.S. military buildup continued within striking distance of Afghanistan, Bush vowed to use a variety of weapons in the hunt for bin Laden.
He declined comment on reports that U.S. special forces had already entered Afghanistan and begun surveillance, but said: ''Make no mistake about it, we're in hot pursuit.''
Just a few hours later Qatar's al-Jazeera television reported the capture of U.S. special forces personnel inside Afghanistan.
Quoting a military source from bin Laden's al Qaeda network, al-Jazeera said that five special forces members -- three Americans and two Afghans with U.S. citizenship -- had been caught as they were scouting near the Iranian border.
They were carrying modern weapons and some maps of al Qaeda sites, al-Jazeera said. Its source said pictures of the men would be released soon.
Asked about the report, the Taliban's defense minister, Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, told Reuters: ''It is totally wrong, we deny this news that they have come to our areas.'' Kabul's official news agency Bakhtar also issued a denial.
The Pentagon spokesman, asked to comment, would say only: ''We've seen the stories and we are not going to get into the habit of commenting on every story that comes out of the region.''
CHRISTIAN AID WORKERS
Despite the evacuation from Afghanistan of most foreigners since the U.S. attacks, eight foreign aid workers remain in Taliban custody accused of spreading Christianity.
A second session of their trial, set for Saturday, was postponed for a day amid legal procedures to arrange their defense by a Pakistani lawyer, officials said.
Taliban Chief Justice Noor Mohammad Saqib said the two Americans, two Australians and four Germans would be summoned before the court on Sunday.
They have been detained in a Taliban religious police jail since August 5, along with 16 local staff.
In another development, Britain's Foreign Office said it was in contact with the Taliban about a British reporter who was arrested near the eastern city of Jalalabad.
Earlier the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said from Islamabad that the Taliban had begun questioning Yvonne Ridley, 41, a reporter for the London-based Sunday Express.
Ridley was dressed in the all-enveloping Afghan burqa when she was detained with her two guides in Daur Baba district, about nine miles from the Pakistan border, AIP said.
It quoted an official as saying the Briton was carrying no passport and had entered the country illegally. She was under investigation by intelligence agency officials.
ROLE FOR FORMER KING
Mullah Omar was quoted in a rare interview on Saturday as saying that former King Zahir Shah had no role to play in the country despite the current crisis.
Several exiled Afghan leaders and groups have urged Mohammad Zahir Shah, who is 86, to play a part in overseeing the choosing of a new government. The United Nations envoy to Kabul has also said there could be a role for the former monarch, who has lived in exile in Italy since his overthrow in 1973.
The former king was quoted by the French newspaper Le Monde on Saturday repeating his intention to return home as soon as possible to help organize a transition to democratic rule.
But Omar told the conservative Iranian newspaper Entekhab: ''He is too old and weak... Anyway, Afghanistan does not have a leadership vacuum...Imposed puppets do not last long in Afghanistan, and with the grace of God the future of the Taliban shall be bright anyway.''
In the interview, Omar also repeated denials that bin Laden had carried out the September 11 attacks on the United States.
U.N. SWOOPS ON TERRORISM
In New York late on Friday, the U.N. Security Council adopted a sweeping counter-terrorism resolution requiring all nations to freeze funds of terror suspects and crack down on groups helping them.
The U.S.-sponsored resolution, approved by a 15-0 vote, dramatically expands the U.N. role in building a global coalition against terrorism following the September 11 attacks.
The resolution also requires countries to deny safe haven to anyone responsible for, or supporting, a terror attack and criminalizes financing of such attacks.
The main thrust of the resolution is on the financing of clandestine networks. It seeks to freeze financial assets of people who have committed, or attempted to commit, terrorist acts or participated in groups owned or controlled ''directly or indirectly'' by such people.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the 19 suspects in the airborne assaults on the United States spent about $500,000 preparing the operation and four of the hijackers were trained in camps in Afghanistan run by bin Laden.
Investigators had developed tentative links between most of the other hijacking suspects and bin Laden, the paper said.
The Post said the operation was planned and launched from overseas, beginning several years ago in Germany with support in Britain, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.
|Afghans Grab Green Berets|
|09/29/01 at 12:04:21|
Afghans Grab Green Berets
By NICK PAPPS and BRUCE WILSON in Islamabad, Pakistan
THREE members of a US special forces team have reportedly been taken prisoner in Afghanistan.
Qatar's al-Jazeera television station said a commander from terrorist leader Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group had claimed in a telephone call that the three, with two Afghan guides, had been captured by Taliban troops near the Iranian border.
The report said the soldiers were heavily armed and had maps pinpointing training camps run by al-Qaeda.
The station reported that bin Laden's commander had called its correspondent in Islamabad with the news.
"The five were arrested, three Americans and two Afghans who were trained in the US special forces and have US citizenship," the correspondent said. "The three Americans are also from the US special forces. They were on a mission to know the territory of al-Qaeda."
He said pictures of the men would be released soon, but the report was initially denied by a Taliban spokesman.
The news came as Prime Minister John Howard told Australians to prepare for a long war against terrorism which could claim Australian lives.
He issued the warning after a late phone call on Friday from US President George W. Bush.
Mr Howard confirmed in Melbourne yesterday that Australia would make an "effective contribution" to any US action and said the nation could become a terrorist target.
He said Mr Bush had thanked him for Australia's support and told him there would be no single, swift attack.
The reported capture of the US soldiers emerged less than 24 hours after it was revealed US and British special forces -- thought to be Green Berets and the SAS -- were in southern Afghanistan. Their presence was not denied by Washington or London.
They were reported to be searching for landing sites and base camps.
The area is known to contain some old airfields and not much else.
Special forces already have infiltrated parts of northern Afghanistan.
A British unit is also said to have been involved in a brief firefight with Taliban troops.
A special forces-led search for bin Laden adds weight to new reports from Washington that four of the hijackers involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks had trained at camps run by the Saudi dissident.
The capture of one of those search teams would be a serious blow to a war against terrorism which Mr Howard said would be long and drawn-out.
"It's not something that is going to happen in one single event," he said. "It's something that will require a variety of responses over a period of time.
"It's important that Australians understand that and I know they do."
Mr Howard also said President Bush thanked Australia for its sympathy over the terrorist attacks and its offer of military support.
He said talks would be held between Australian and US commanders on Australia's likely military role.
Mr Howard refused to be drawn on the extent of Australia's war effort, but said: "I'm sure Australia can make an effective contribution."
But he admitted there was a risk of Australian casualties and the nation becoming a target for terrorists.
"Whenever you get involved in any kind of conflict there's always a danger of casualties," he said.
"Whenever forces are deployed there is a risk of casualties.
"And we can't assume that nothing can happen here. We don't take anything for granted."
This week, the Federal Government will consider changes to security laws and how to improve the nation's defences against terrorism.
News of the capture of the special forces unit came as talks between Islamic clerics from Pakistan and the Taliban regime ended in failure.
The clerics had hoped to persuade Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to hand over bin Laden. Further talks will be held.
Despite the claims that the American troops had been captured, Western diplomats said the presence of troops in Afghanistan had sent a strong message to the Taliban and the Muslim allies of President Bush's anti-terrorist coalition.
First, the allies were showing they were prepared to fight Taliban troops on their own ground, on the basis that tough terrain can help both sides in a prolonged guerilla war.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the US was indicating this was not going to be a war fought from a great height in which, as one observer put it, bombs would simply rearrange the rubble within Afghanistan.
The country is already in ruins after almost 30 years of continuous war.
Diplomats said it was clear the US and Britain were not prepared to risk losing the support of Muslim nations by mounting a bombing campaign similar to that seen in Iraq during the 1990-91 Gulf War.
That would inevitably result in the deaths of thousands of innocent Afghans starving after a prolonged drought and facing the 21st century's first great humanitarian disaster.
Observers in Pakistan said it seemed certain the US and Britain -- and later, perhaps, elite forces from other nations -- were prepared to set up base camps and use their superior firepower and support to surround the Taliban.
Special forces are thought to have been flown into southern Afghanistan from the Persian Gulf area.
|Re: US Special Forces Captured|
|09/29/01 at 15:02:40|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Please notice that Taliban they have denied this totally. It might be a trick by USA to justify attacks.
|Re: US Special Forces Captured|
|09/29/01 at 17:23:00|
Yesterday I heard on the news that the US was becoming frustrated and couldn't locate Osama Bin Laddin, so they had thought about doing light air strikes to scare the Afghanis.
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