Source: Joint Pakistan-FBI team interrogates more than 200 detained al-Qaida members

Saturday, December 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistani intelligence officers and FBI agents are interrogating more than 200 suspected al-Qaida members across the country as they track Osama bin Laden and his fugitive associates, officials said Saturday.

Pakistan has provided access to the visiting FBI agents, a senior intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ``We are sharing with the FBI whatever is possible,'' the official, who participated in the interrogations, told The Associated Press.

Interior Ministry officials confirmed the report Saturday.

This month, Pakistan has arrested at least 150 reputed al-Qaida members fleeing intense U.S. bombardment in the Tora Bora cave complex of eastern Afghanistan.

Since U.S. airstrikes on Afghanistan began in October, more than 200 foreign nationals, most suspected of being bin Laden's men, have been detained by Pakistani troops in different border towns.

On Saturday, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that a six-member FBI team, assisted by Pakistan's military intelligence, is questioning 139 al-Qaida suspects at a prison in Kohat, near the restive border city of Peshawar.

Dawn reported that military officials have hired an Arabic speaker to translate conversations between the FBI and al-Qaida suspects. The paper said a team of FBI officials travels to Kohat by army plane every night and, after interviewing reported al-Qaida members, returns to Islamabad.

Pakistani troops are guarding the Afghan frontier to prevent Taliban and al-Qaida members from sneaking into the country. Detained al-Qaida suspects have reportedly told Pakistani interrogators that at least 2,000 foreign fighters remain in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been participating in international efforts against terrorism since just days after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. But because of tension with India on its eastern border in recent days, Islamabad has reportedly told the U.S.-led coalition that it may need to pull troops patrolling the Pakistani-Afghan border.