U.S. Raid Generates Controversy

Four Afghan women dressed in burkas join other women in a designated area for women at a rally for democracy and national unity in the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan on Thursday Jan. 24, 2002.
Afghan authorities were seeking an explanation from the U.S. military for the detention of 27 prisoners seized last week by Special Forces. The Afghans claim those taken into custody during a Jan. 23 raid north of Kandahar include anti-Taliban officials loyal to interim leader Hamid Karzai's new government, among them the local police chief.

The pre-dawn raid has emerged as one of the most controversial operations since the U.S. military shifted gears from forcing the collapse of the Taliban regime to the hunt for surviving pockets of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. Karzai said he would send a delegation to investigate.

The Pentagon says Special Forces attacked a legitimate military target, an ammunition dump that intelligence analysts believed was being used by al-Qaida or Taliban forces. U.S. troops killed 15 or 16 people and took 27 others prisoner after gunmen opened fire on them, the Pentagon said. One American soldier was wounded in the ankle.

Click Here for Complete CoverageLocal Afghans insisted that by the time the Special Forces arrived, Taliban renegades had handed over their weapons to pro-government figures. The locals said some anti-Taliban forces were killed in the raid. Yusuf Pashtun, Agha's spokesman, said the Americans had been asked for "clarification" of the detainees' status and the reasons they were being held.

A spokesman for Gov. Gul Agha in the southern city of Kandahar said Tuesday that the U.S. military had promised to begin releasing some of the detainees in a few days. At the U.S. base in Kandahar, Army spokesman Capt. Tony Rivers declined comment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush said Tuesday night that tens of thousands of terrorists still threaten the United States — "ticking time bombs, set to go off" — and promised to stalk them across the globe.

Click here for more about Karzai's trip to the U.S.
Click here for more about the detainees in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Bush pledged to push the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan to a dozen countries that he said harbor terrorist camps. He also warned of "an axis of evil" of nations like North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and said the United States would not allow them to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction.

Offering chilling evidence of terrorist plotting, the president said U.S. forces in Afghanistan had found diagrams of American nuclear power plants hidden in terrorist hide-outs.

In other developments:

  • Philippine and U.S. troops firmed plans for the launch of training exercises to fight Muslim militants. Those exercises could start Thursday.
  • Two former Taliban ministers were detained ednesday near the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, a police official said. The official said the two men were identified as the Taliban's former chief justice, Maulawi Noor Mohammad Saqib, and deputy foreign minister Maulvi Addul Rehman Zahid.
  • The Immigration and Naturalization Service will allow civil rights advocates to meet with foreign nationals who have been detained since Sept. 11. The decision announced Tuesday comes several days after the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed a lawsuit seeking basic information about the hundreds of people held in the Passaic and Hudson county jails. Advocates say that 90 percent of the 460 people federal officials say are being held in connection with the terrorism investigation are held in those jails.
  • Pakistani police have cleared a British charity worker, James McLintock, who was arrested near the Afghan-Pakistani border Dec. 24 on suspicion of being a member of al-Qaida, the British High Commission in Islamabad said Wednesday. He was set free.
  • Australian special forces in southern Afghanistan destroyed a cache of weapons and explosives at an al-Qaida cave complex.
  • French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine confirmed that two French citizens are among al-Qaida and Taliban suspects being held at the U.N. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said they should be returned home to stand trial.
  • The Afghan currency, the afghani, fell about 25 percent overnight, the plunge apparently sparked by a statement a day earlier by an International Monetary Fund official, Warren Coats, that the government may have to adopt the U.S. dollar as an interim currency. In Kabul, the exchange rate at the city's markets was about 35,000 afghanis to the dollar, weaker from 28,000 a day earlier.