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America must squeeze Al-Qaida operative dry



Published: Mon, April 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



For weeks after the successful ouster of the criminal Taliban government in Afghanistan, Bush administration officials kept insisting that the capture of Al-Qaida's top echelon, including Osama bin Laden, was not the end-all in the war on global terrorism.

Yet, the failure of America and its allies to nab bin Laden and members of his inner circle has been a constant reminder of the challenges that lie ahead.

But now, with the recent arrest of Abu Zubaydah, described as the "choke point" between bin Laden's will to cause havoc in the world and actual terror attacks, the chances of a successful conclusion to the war have greatly improved.

Without a doubt, Zubaydah is a major prize. Not only does he have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Al-Qaida, which has been identified as orchestrating the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America's mainland, but he also knows the locations of the hiding places used by bin Laden and others to elude capture.

The U.S. should do whatever is necessary to get Zubaydah to talk. While the Bush administration will be under pressure not to forget that ours is a nation of laws and that our human rights record is an example for the rest of the world, the fact remains that a kinder, gentler approach to interrogation won't work.

Bloody criminal: Zubaydah has the blood of hundreds of innocent men, women and children on his hands. By being a member of bin Laden's inner circle, he not only has important information about terrorist operations that are being planned, but he may well know where bin Laden is hiding.

The fact that he was captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan, far from the Afghanistan border, confirms news reports that bin Laden and his lieutenants have been moving freely between the two countries. Zubaydah should be forced to reveal who in Pakistan has been protecting bin Laden and his lieutenants and what role, if any, the intelligence service has played in helping Al-Qaida stay one step ahead of U.S. special forces.

There is no doubt that terrorists around the world will be watching closely to see whether the United States has what it takes to force this international criminal to talk.

Beyond what he can tell authorities about bin Laden, Zubaydah should also be questioned about the terrorist cells that are reportedly located in 60 countries that have ties to Al-Qaida.

As one former CIA counterterrorism chief put it: "He was the guy that had direct contact with prominent Al-Qaida cell leaders abroad, and he knew where they all were. He would have been the guy coordinating the new attacks."




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