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Attorney General Ashcroft renews warning

By United Press International   |   Jan. 26, 2002 at 6:17 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft Friday reminded Americans that a new terrorist strike is still a possibility, putting a name to the picture of one of five suspected terrorists seen in a video apparently preparing to sacrifice themselves.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Friday called on Britain's 2 million-strong Muslim community to take a stand against extremists and to marginalize those who use terror in the name of Islam. Straw spoke to a gathering of Islamic scholars, diplomats, academics and students at Oxford's Center for Islamic Studies.

Ashcroft said the name of the fifth suspected terrorist is Abderraouf Jdey, described as being a Tunisian-born Canadian citizen.

The Canadian passport could make him more mobile that he would be without it, officials warned, and repeated the possibility all five are cooperating in a terror plan somewhere.

Last week, the United States had appealed for help worldwide in locating the five men featured in photos and videotapes whom officials said appeared to be planning new terrorist attacks.

Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters, the first U.S. servicewoman killed in the war on terrorism, received a 21-gun salute from an honor guard Friday as she was buried next to her mother. More than 1,000 family, friends and strangers filed past her flag-draped casket at the Genesis Convention Center.

After more than 100 days into the war to dismantle the Taliban and al Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan, military officials were surprised to find a large weapons cache just 40 miles from the U.S. base in Kandahar in a midnight raid Wednesday, Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said Friday

The store of weapons, hidden in several buildings in and immediately outside a walled compound near Hazar Qadam, included 300 rocket-propelled grenades, nearly 300 100 mm rockets, 400 60 mm mortar rounds, 1,000 rocket fuses, 250 automatic grenade launcher rounds and half a million small arms rounds.

The team of Army Special Operations soldiers pulled out of the compound after a firefight that killed roughly 15 Taliban fighters and left one Special Forces soldier with a wounded ankle. U.S. forces took 27 prisoners in the raid.

The injured American has moved to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

An AC-130 gunship pounded the weapons store Thursday, causing secondary explosions and destroying the stash, Stufflebeem said.

"It is just another sign there is still bad stuff there," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said Friday. "There are still troublesome areas, and people who wish to do harm to us and others."

Stufflebeem said the compound was an example of a pattern the military has seen throughout Afghanistan and of which it sought to warn the American people: Taliban and al Qaida fighters are regrouping and are assumed to have ill intentions toward the U.S. and Afghan force that routed them.

"The sense that I have is that these are groups of 20, 30 people, obviously getting together, with what intent we don't know for sure. We -- as you know, we have lost a soldier in this combat," he said. "So we make a(n) assessment or we make assumptions that these are hostiles and that they would continue to intend to do hostile acts. If they are Taliban, they probably don't want to give up the way of the Taliban. And if they're al Qaida, we know what their mission is, which is to kill people, including Americans."

Despite Wednesday's find, Stufflebeem said the terrorist organization has been largely scattered and broken.

"The functioning of al Qaida as an organization has clearly been ... taken down in Afghanistan. The backbone of what gave them the communications capability is physically gone," he said.

Nevertheless, al Qaida operatives are believed to be buying new satellite phones with cash and reconnecting with one another, he said.

Small teams of Special Forces soldiers are roaming Afghanistan searching for just such pockets of fighters, a defense official said. Some of them operate with local Afghan forces and others operate alone.

There are just more than 4,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan, most of them at the Kandahar International Airport that serves as home base.

An unmanned surveillance drone known as "Predator" crashed on its way out of Afghanistan, at least the sixth to crash since the war began in October. The plane was not hit by hostile fire, Stufflebeem said. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

U.S. forces now hold 460 prisoners, 302 of them in Afghanistan, including the 27 taken Wednesday and five turned over Thursday by Afghan forces. The U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba holds 158 detainees.

A congressional delegation of about 25 members and some staff members are arriving in Cuba to inspect the make-shift jail there.

The Defense Department has been criticized at home and abroad about the treatment of the prisoners and the facilities. It maintains the detainees -- to whom it has not accorded the protected status of "prisoners of war" -- are being treated humanely and in general accord with the Geneva Convention.

A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross is on site interviewing the detainees about their treatment and making recommendations for improvements to local commanders.

At least five of the detainees have undergone surgery at the camp for gunshot wounds. Others are receiving treatment for possible tuberculosis.

This week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld temporarily suspended transferring additional detainees to Cuba to prevent overcrowding while more 8-foot by 6-foot cells are constructed.

Officials at Guantanamo Bay say there are 60 empty cells ready to receive detainees.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Kabul Friday for a short visit and a meeting with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai.

Annan's visit to the Afghan capital comes after talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and other government officials aimed at securing regional support for Afghanistan's new post-Taliban government.

He is scheduled to meet with heads of U.N. agencies overseeing aid programs, such as food distribution, public health and education. Annan is likely to meet with commanders of the U.N. sanctioned International Security Assistance Force.

After talks in Kabul, Annan heads to Iran later Friday.

Late Thursday in Washington, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said he hoped the military campaign in Afghanistan would end soon.

"The military campaign will not continue for years. The main objectives have been achieved. I see no reason why not to be optimistic that it will come to an end soon," he told members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Abdullah, a key member of Kabul's interim administration, is in Washington for preliminary talks with U.S. officials before a scheduled visit by the interim Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai.

Abdullah is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday, apparently to complete the agenda for Karzai's talks. Karzai plans to meet President George W. Bush on Monday.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that besides discussing Karzai's visit, Abdullah will "also pick up" on Powell's discussions in Kabul earlier this month.

Boucher said that "effective governance and reconstruction of Afghanistan" will be the main theme in Abdullah's talks with U.S. officials.

Meanwhile, U.S. defense officials said at least 15 suspected al Qaida and Taliban fighters were killed in southern Afghanistan that left at least on American soldier slightly wounded.

Pentagon officials say U.S. forces also detained 27 individuals on Thursday and moved them to Kandahar for further questioning. The wounded U.S. soldier was evacuated for medical treatment.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the raids on the two compounds about 50 miles north of Kandahar show that there are still pockets of Taliban and al Qaida resistance in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld such raids would continue for some time to come as U.S.-led forces systematically root out Taliban and al Qaida fighters. U.S. forces are trying to determine if any of the new detainees are senior figures.

Osama bin Laden and ousted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have eluded capture since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The two men remain the subject of an intense manhunt.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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