- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

Captured enemy fighters have told U.S. interrogators that a significant number of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders were killed by U.S. air strikes, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States learned today of two possible deaths in the Taliban "top 20." It is investigating those detainee assertions and other reported deaths as the Pentagon learns its three months of bombings may have been more effective than originally thought in killing the enemy's leadership.
Still loose, however, are the two top targets, Osama bin Laden, who planned the September 11 attacks on America, and Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
"As we interrogate more detainees, we are being told of terrorists who they believe were killed in earlier bombing raids," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "Almost every arrest leads to additional pieces of information."
He made the disclosure amid criticism from military analysts that the U.S. campaign has been slow to catch bin Laden and Mullah Omar.
"Those leaders are not at the present time able to function very effectively," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We have disrupted their communication. We've got them on the move."
The defense chief's statement came the same day the country learned of more benefits from collecting evidence in Afghanistan.
The government of Singapore said it foiled a planned series of attacks on Western embassies, U.S. warships and military personnel visiting the Southeast Asian nation
"I think that the government of Singapore has acted with dispatch, and we're very pleased that they have been able to do what they've done," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Singapore officials displayed on national television a videotape found in an al Qaeda leader's house in which a man described how explosives could be carried on a bicycle. Other evidence included Arabic-language handwritten notes found in Afghanistan describing plans to attack Americans in Singapore.
Singapore's announcement marked the first time a government has announced that it had broken up an al Qaeda mission based on intelligence gathered in the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press in Singapore quoted the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying attacks had been planned on the British High Commission, the Israeli Embassy and the Australian High Commission. The ministry said it had arrested 13 members of a radical Islamic group called Jamaah Islamiyah, or Islamic Group, which is tied to al Qaeda. Eight of the suspects had received training at one of bin Laden's terror camps in Afghanistan.
The ministry said a list containing the names of 200 U.S. companies in Singapore also was found.
The United States notified Singapore of the finds Dec. 14 and provided copies Dec. 28. The Islamic radicals were arrested earlier this week.
Mr. Rumsfeld declined to discuss how the extremists in Singapore planned to attack Americans.
"They're going to be interrogated, and then to the extent charges are appropriate, charges will be filed," he said. "They'll be tried, according to Singapore law, one would think. And I don't know that I should get into it. But we do have vessels in the area, and we do have people in the area, and so do other countries, coalition countries, and the government of Singapore. There are all kinds of targets that exist in that area. "
Concerning detainee reports that the U.S. bombing has killed enemy leaders, Mr. Rumsfeld did not identify any of the suspected dead. He said the Pentagon is compiling a list for public release of the 10 to 15 most senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders either killed or in custody.
"We're trying to do that in a way that we can ultimately declassify it," he said. The Pentagon to date has not released the names and functions of any detainee, except American-turned-Taliban John Walker.
The newly reported deaths are believed to be in addition to deaths already discussed in recent weeks by U.S. officials. Those include Qari Ahmadullah, the Taliban intelligence chief, and two al Qaeda planners, Abu Jafar al-Jaziri and Abu Salah al-Yemeni.
The American military is now holding 465 detainees, 444 in Afghanistan, and one, Walker, on a ship in the Arabian Sea.
Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, briefed reporters minutes after the first shipment of 20 al Qaeda and Taliban captives arrived at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The military is systematically shifting the prisoners from a makeshift detention center in Kandahar.
In Cuba, the detainees will face more interrogations as the Bush administration tries to dissect bin Laden's global network to identify members and foil attacks now in the pipeline.
Gen. Myers defended the strict security measures in transit. Detainees are handcuffed, shackled and wear hoods. He drew reporters' attention to uprisings in Afghanistan in which cornered or detained al Qaeda members blew themselves up in order to kill their captors.
"We've got to remember that these are very, very dangerous people," Gen. Myers said. "I mean, these are people that would gnaw hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide