Pentagon: Taliban building bombed; more prisoners arrive at Kandahar

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

WASHINGTON (AP) _ American-led forces pursued Osama bin Laden and clues to his whereabouts Saturday in a campaign President Bush said involved new tactics to ``rout a new kind of enemy.''

Two B1-b bombers struck a complex occupied by members of the fallen Taliban leadership that had harbored bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorists, Maj. Brad Lowell of the U.S. Central Command said Saturday.

British and U.S. forces joined hundreds of Afghans in the search of caves of the former al-Qaida complex near Tora Bora, looking for documents and other intelligence as well as al-Qaida that may still be hiding there.

And U.S. troops doubled to nearly 140 the number of Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners they detained for questioning or possible prosecution. From among thousands captured by Afghan fighters, the prisoners were selected for interrogation in the hopes they will give information about bin Laden, other terrorists or planned attacks.

In his last scheduled radio address of the year, Bush lauded progress made so far in the war on terrorism.

``The men and women of our military have successfully fought a new kind of war,'' he said. ``They applied new tactics and new technology to rout a new kind of enemy.

The Bush administration blames bin Laden for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

Twelve weeks after the start of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, the fate of bin Laden remained unknown but the subject of different reports and rumors daily.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar called ``very far fetched speculation'' the idea that bin Laden had escaped to his country.

``There is no information at the disposal of the government, not an iota of information, which should lead to the speculation that Osama bin Laden or any of his associates are on Pakistan territory, except those who tried to enter, were apprehended at the border,'' he said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CNN. Pakistan holds hundreds of such prisoners.

Meanwhile, in the first air strike since Wednesday, American forces bombed a building about 10 miles from Gardez in the eastern Paktia province late Friday night, Afghan time, Lowell said.

``We've got aircraft in the sky,'' said Lowell. ``If given the opportunity to take a target, we will do it.''

The air portion of the war has wound down to only occasional strikes since Afghan fighters in conjunction with U.S. bombing raids routed Taliban rulers and al-Qaida terrorists from most of the country.

With another transfer of prisoners Friday, America was holding 125 at a Marine-built jail at the Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan, Lowell said Saturday from the war command center in Tampa, Fla. Eight prisoners, including American John Walker Lindh, were being held on the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea. Three more were at other smaller detention facilities elsewhere in Afghanistan, bringing the total to 136, Lowell said.

In addition to their possible intelligence value, some could be candidates for a U.S. military tribunal, which Bush has authorized to judge and sentence terrorists who are not American citizens.

Also, some U.S. Marines at the Kandahar base were planning to leave, with Army and possibly Air Force personnel expected to arrive soon to replace them, defense officials said. The Marine expeditionary units sent in to establish bases in Afghanistan have completed that mission, setting up the one in Kandahar as well as one to the south they named Camp Rhino.