- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

A team of forensic specialists is gathering biological evidence at a site in eastern Afghanistan to determine if Osama bin Laden was among those killed in a U.S. missile attack last week against members of the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Military officials don't know if bin Laden was one of the victims, ABC News reported yesterday, but 50 soldiers were sent to the mountainous area of Zhawar Kili near Khost.
The soldiers are accompanied by a forensics team who "have found what is described as biological material on the ground things like skin, blood, hair, perhaps even body parts from whoever it was that they killed," correspondent John McWethy said on ABC's "This Week."
U.S. intelligence has already collected DNA samples from members of bin Laden's family for comparison to determine if the remains are those of the exiled Saudi terrorist leader.
Three men were reportedly targeted, attacked and killed last Monday by a missile launched by an unmanned vehicle called the Predator.
Reports that one of the targets was unusually tall raised the possibility that the attack might have struck bin Laden, who is more than six feet tall, but that was discounted yesterday.
"One of them was real tall, but they were Afghans, not Arabs," Amanullah Zadran, minister of frontier and tribal affairs for Afghanistan's interim government, told The Washington Post, which reported that the three men were members of al Qaeda.
In interviews yesterday on network news talk shows, the Senate's top intelligence leaders could offer no information on the whereabouts of bin Laden.
Both Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and the panel's vice chairman, said they suspect bin Laden is still alive.
"He's a survivor by nature and I'll believe he is alive until we have some kind of forensic evidence to the contrary," said Mr. Shelby, adding:
"Could he be dead? There's always a remote possibility he could be dead. But I don't want to be the one to announce that, because I have the feeling he will reappear."
Mr. Graham said that the region where the Predator launched a missile against what he described as a "group of al Qaeda leaders" is very mountainous and is "covered by three or four feet of snow." Those conditions, he said, blocked earlier access to the site.
He said the campaign in Afghanistan won't be complete until bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11 attacks, is found.
"I believe his final disposition, whether capture, death or otherwise, is a key part of coming to closure in Afghanistan," Mr. Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "There was nothing [more] symbolic about the war in Afghanistan than Osama bin Laden. His final disposition will be a key to reaching the last paragraph in the chapter of our book on anti-terrorism."
Asked about reports that the vanquished Taliban militia is regrouping outside of Afghanistan, Mr. Shelby said, "I think there is a lot of credibility there. We know they will reassemble. They are dedicated terrorists a lot of them have gotten out of Afghanistan. Some of them have gone to Iran. Some of them have gone to Pakistan, and where else, we are not sure. But they will resurface, and we will hear from them again. We must destroy them."
The surrender of former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil is a "very significant" development in the war on terrorism, the senators said. Mr. Graham said Mr. Muttawakil might be able to provide information about other planned attacks against the United States and thus prevent them.
Mr. Shelby says he fully expects there will be another terrorist attack. "Which way it will come, I'm not sure. It might be something like what [Richard] Reid tried to pull off on the trans-Atlantic flight [when he reportedly tried to blow up the plane with a bomb in his shoe]. It might be more organized with more people. But we have to be vigilant," he said.
President Bush's State of the Union address in which he described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" with ties to terrorists was a good sign, said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.
The speech showed the "administration has turned the corner, and it's now headed in the direction of action to change the regime in Baghdad, to get rid of Saddam," Mr. Lieberman said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," adding that he "totally" supports such a move.

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