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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 08:48 GMT
FBI probes prisoners for clues
US marines guard prisoners at the prison
The identities of the prisoners are not clear
FBI agents are interrogating 15 prisoners captured by anti-Taleban forces whom they hope could provide valuable information on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, and any plans for further attacks against the United States.

It is one thing to disrupt an organisation such as al-Qaeda, it is another to dismantle and destroy it

Tim Caruso
The shackled prisoners arrived at a newly established detention centre at the US base in Kandahar late on Tuesday night. Several FBI officials had flown in from New York and Washington specifically to carry out the interrogations.

The prisoners had been brought from a jail near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, selected from hundreds of Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters caught by opposition forces during the US campaign.

"We concluded, in conjunction with the people holding them, that these were people who might have important information," said Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"We think we know who they are, and if they're who we think they are, they're fairly important people."

No guarantees

While the two-month campaign against Afghanistan has brought down the Taleban, Bin Laden as well as senior Taleban figures have so far evaded capture.

Anti-Taleban forces at Tora Bora
Tora Bora fell without a sign of Bin Laden
Hopes that Bin Laden might be uncovered in Tora Bora's complex network of caves in the northeast of the country dissipated after the area fell to the opposition with no sign of the al-Qaeda chief.

US officials admit they do not know where he is.

On Tuesday night, the FBI also warned that it was as yet impossible to judge whether the apparent victory in Afghanistan had neutralised the threat of his al-Qaeda network.

"It is too early to tell, from a law enforcement perspective, how the current military campaign in Afghanistan will affect al-Qaeda and its ability to operate in the future," said Tim Caruso, assistant director of the FBI's counter-terrorism department.

"It is one thing to disrupt an organisation such as al-Qaeda, it is another to dismantle and destroy it."

While the training camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed, al-Qaeda may still have the resources elsewhere to plot and prepare further attacks, Caruso warned.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | South Asia
US names al-Qaeda 'most wanted'
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: What next for al-Qaeda?
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