Skip to comments.Hunt for Bin Laden: Troops follow DNA trail in dead men’s fingers
Posted on 12/22/2001 5:46:31 PM PST by aculeus
AS the American military commander leading the hunt for Osama Bin Laden admitted yesterday that the Saudi terrorist leader had not been sighted for a week, US special forces were engaged in the grim task of cutting off the fingers of dead Al-Qaeda fighters in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
The FBI will use the body parts to clarify through DNA analysis whether any prominent members of the Al-Qaeda organisation, including Bin Laden, died in the battle of Tora Bora. Officials are reported to have collected DNA samples from members of Bin Ladens family to check for a match.
Special forces thought they were close to tracking down Bin Laden in Tora Bora about two weeks ago, but the trail went cold. Pakistani intelligence claimed Al-Qaeda had spread disinformation by relaying taped messages from Bin Laden on shortwave radio sets, and the CIA concluded he had either been killed or had escaped.
I cant say that I or someone I know has physically laid eyes on Bin Laden in the past week, said General Tommy Franks, the American commander. There are really only three possibilities. He can be in Tora Bora or in that area, dead; he can be somewhere else in Afghanistan and still alive; or perhaps he may have gotten into Pakistan.
According to the CIA, more than 400 Al-Qaeda fighters have fled Afghanistan since American air strikes began in October. However, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan said yesterday he was reasonably sure Bin Laden was not in his country.
Maybe he is dead, Musharraf said. There is a great possibility that he may have lost his life.
American special forces have placed corpses they have examined in a cave, sealing the entrance with boulders to prevent wild animals from disturbing them. A sickly smell identifies the cave, a few minutes walk from a destroyed Al-Qaeda camp at the entrance to the Malaewa valley.
The Americans bombed the Al-Qaeda camp relentlessly for days, leaving it a scorched and mutilated piece of earth. A lone B-52 bomber circling overhead provided a reminder last week that the battle for Bin Ladens mountain stronghold may not be over.
A swarm of tribal fighters picked over the camp like locusts for booty. Some were scavenging from the ruins of a simple stone house that they said had once been the Saudi millionaires home in Tora Bora. It was next to a cement-lined rectangular hole in the ground, which Afghans fantasised had been a swimming pool, but which was, in fact, a water storage tank.
Unexploded mortar bombs and boxes of ammunition with Chinese markings lay amid the twisted debris. There was no sign of the elaborate cave complex Bin Laden was said to have constructed only small caves used for ammunition storage. To some, it began to look as if earlier stories of huge caves fitted with modern conveniences were a fable told by Afghans to gullible journalists in return for large sums of money.
The battle for Tora Bora effectively ended Al-Qaedas presence in Afghanistan. In the fresh morning air, the peaks and valleys of the White Mountains looked like Shangri-La yesterday. But Haji Zahir, a senior Afghan commander, said scores of dead Al-Qaeda soldiers were littering a barren hillside.
If Bin Laden has indeed managed to slip away, then the likelihood is that he entered neighbouring Pakistan near the town of Parachinar, in a wild tribal area. There, rumours are rife that Bin Laden and several other Al-Qaeda leaders are in hiding.
The Americans are determined to clear up the mystery. Franks favours putting in 500 US marines and possibly other troops into the area in the next few days.
Although many Al-Qaeda members are known to have crossed the mountains to the Northwest Frontier province of Pakistan and are running the gauntlet of Pakistani army patrols, the commanders of the Afghans who fought against them at Tora Bora suspect diehards could still be hiding in caves. They told of cornering one Arab fighter who had lost both his legs but fought to the death in his foxhole.
The harsh winter and unexploded ordnance littering the area add to the dangers facing American ground troops deployed in the mountains.
If what Afghan fighters have taken from the caves so far is any guide, little of note has yet been recovered. They have been selling every piece of paper they can find. But the documents had no significance, and if Bin Laden had a nuclear, chemical or biological weapons facility at Tora Bora, it has yet to be found.
In Tora Bora, the marines could be used to dig into caves and tunnels that have collapsed: the B-52 bombing raids caused landslides in the mountains. Disoriented by days of bombing in rag order was how a former Royal Marine commando put it the only exit for Al-Qaeda fighters was to retreat along mountain escape routes, which US special forces turned into killing grounds.
The Pentagon has only just sent to the theatre of war 10 newly developed fuel-air bombs containing explosive devices and a highly flammable chemical that can cause a deadly shock wave without collapsing caves and tunnels.
Not many prisoners have been taken. Those who were caught are the cause of a dangerous feud that has already led to one shootout between two powerful commanders in eastern Afghanistan Hazrat Ali and Haji Zahir.
Ali enjoys American support the special forces are bivouacked in a school house that doubles as his field headquarters. Zahir, the son of Haji Qadeer, the respected governor of Jalalabad, has had no such support even though his men took the most prisoners.
Only in the middle of last week, when they realised belatedly that Zahirs men had captured prisoners they might need to interview for information, did the Americans try to court him.
The prisoners are also worth money. One television company paid $2,000 (£1,387) for the privilege of being the first to film them.
All the signs are that the American goal from the beginning was to kill as many Al-Qaeda fighters as possible. One Afghan commander was overheard 10 days ago asking another on his radio why his men were killing Arabs willing to surrender.
Back came the answer that they were being killed at the request of American special forces: they did not want the Arabs alive and had paid a reward to have them killed.
If there is information to be gleaned about Bin Ladens whereabouts, such ruthlessness must be counterproductive. The International Red Cross has gained access to some prisoners at Jalalabad hospital. But the location of 20 or 30 others is a secret.
A bloody shootout in Pakistan last Wednesday between Al-Qaeda prisoners captured at Parachinar is a mark of the fanaticism Bin Laden imbued in his men. It also showed their fear that they would be handed over to the Americans and killed.
Afghan forces are preparing to move into Baghlan, 100 miles northwest of Kandahar, where Mullah Mohammed Omar, the ousted Taliban leader, is thought to be hiding.
I'll take two, please.
Think about how much easier this is versus the sample collection protocol you mentioned. About all you need is a knife and a sack.
It's apparent the HUNT is on.
Plan your work and work your plan.
The writer of this article makes the assumption that the arabs' offer was legitimate and not fake. Either way, more dead anti-American arabs is a good thing.
Remember: DNA is the stuff of genes. And I think that our military is just trying to see if they can turn up a corpse with the overall genetic profile of OBL.
Just a flesh wound.
DNA from blood family members would be very good evidence for comparison to possible Osama DNA.
I guess the poor simpleton who wrote this didn't understand the lesson of Kunduz/Mazar-i-sharif. He'd probably prefer more Afghan and Americans were slaughtered by being duped into believing the Arabs wanted to surrender again.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!
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