Taliban alleges Americans arrested in Afghanistan, gives no proof

Monday, October 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan claimed Monday that the Islamic militia had arrested Americans in Afghanistan _ but gave no details or evidence.

``There have been arrests, but I don't know how many were taken, or where,'' Taliban envoy Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters.

Zaeef was answering questions about reports in Pakistani media that one or more Americans had been arrested in Afghanistan.

Newspaper reports also have quoted unidentified sources as saying one or more Americans were with Afghan opposition leader Abdul Haq when he was captured and executed last week. Haq was widely believed to have been on a mission to rally opposition to the Taliban among Pashtun tribal leaders and Taliban figures.

Asked about that report as well, Zaeef said he believed ``one or two individuals were with him, but whether they were arrested or not, I don't know.'' Zaeef again was unable to offer any details or evidence despite repeated questioning by reporters.

The Taliban have claimed before to have arrested or killed Americans on covert operations in Afghanistan, without producing any evidence. The Pentagon accuses the Taliban of lying.

On Monday, the White House referred all questions on the matter to the Pentagon, which did not immediately comment.

U.S. officials say they knew of Haq's mission, but neither endorsed nor supported it. Washington has confirmed it ordered airstrikes to try to save Haq.

When Haq and his supporters were ambushed by the Taliban as they tried to infiltrate Afghanistan, Haq called supporters in the United States by satellite phone. Those U.S. supporters in turn contacted U.S. Central Command, the military authority running the fight in Afghanistan.

Some hours later, a CIA-flown Predator drone reached the areas and fired missiles at a Taliban convoy. But Haq and his colleagues were still seized by the Taliban.