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U.S. to Question Detainees

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2001 – About 15 detainees are on the way to Kandahar from elsewhere in Afghanistan for questioning by U.S. military officials there, Pentagon spokesman Richard McGraw told reporters here this morning. The detainees are being moved from an opposition force holding facility west of Mazar-e Sharif.

Opposition forces are holding thousands of prisoners throughout Afghanistan, McGraw said, including about 3,000 in the Shebergan prison northwest of Mazar-e Sharif. He said the opposition forces identify the prisoners as best they can and cull any who speak English and others they think U.S. officials would want to interview.

U.S. forces in Kandahar have established a prison capable of holding 100 detainees, McGraw said. Another detention facility set up at Camp Rhino can hold 100, and plans call for expanding its capabilities. The USS Peleliu can hold about a dozen detainees in its brig.

Five detainees are in U.S. custody aboard the Peleliu. They include an Australian and John Walker, the American found among captives after a prison uprising near Mazar-e Sharif in early December. U.S. officials don't know the identities or nationalities of the remaining three.

"Walker will be moved, but we don't know when or (to) where yet," McGraw told reporters. "His status has not been determined."

Turning to other details, McGraw confirmed that a U.S Army soldier was injured during de-mining operations at Bagram Air Base Dec. 18. He was evacuated to a military hospital in the region where his left foot was amputated. He is now being evacuated to Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center, Germany. The soldier's name is being withheld until his family is notified.

A Marine lost his foot and two others were injured by a mine at the Kandahar airport Dec. 16. They were also evacuated to Landstuhl.

The whereabouts of Osama bin Laden remains unknown, McGraw said.

He noted that U.S. officials have determined reports of hostile fire at U.S. cargo planes in Afghanistan were false. The flashes thought to be from missiles turned out to be from Afghans celebrating the end of Ramadan by firing small arms.

U.S. and coalition aircraft flew 138 sorties in Afghanistan Dec. 17, striking targets around Kandahar and Tora Bora. "Bombing continues today as heavy as yesterday," McGraw said.

Airdrops delivered 17,200 humanitarian daily rations and other aid around Kandahar yesterday, and Commando Solo flights continued broadcasting in the Tora Bora area, he said.

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