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Military action against Al Qaeda to go on, says coalition

December 13, 2001


ISLAMABAD, Dec 12: Coalition military action against Al Qaeda will not end in Afghanistan and it will continue to wipe out its cells operating elsewhere in the world, Spokesman Kenton Keith said on Wednesday.

“Once Al Qaeda is defeated in Afghanistan that certainly will not mean the end of action against the network,” Mr Keith said at the daily briefing.

Al Qaeda cells, the spokesman said, existed in many places beyond Afghanistan and the surrender of Tora Bora would not mean an end of action against the organization.

He said there were thousands of caves in Tora Bora range and it would have to be decided whether this complex be rendered useless for military purposes.

Commenting on a report carried by The Washington Post that the second phase of Al Qaeda terrorist attacks, involving biological weapons, would commence after Ramazan, he said there was no indication that the story was based on facts.

The Post had based the report on the interrogation of John Walker, an American Taliban fighter who was arrested at Mazar-i-Sharif.

Mr Keith said that John Walker was still in Afghanistan and his future was being sorted out. He maintained that American authorities were not only interrogating John Walker but other people as well to get as much information on Al Qaeda plans as possible.

He said it was not clear as to what was John Walker’s standing in the Al Qaeda hierarchy.

Regarding reports on surrender, he said: “Pressure continues in the Tora Bora area. Al Qaeda fighters have not yet surrendered. As long as they refuse to do so, anti-Taliban forces on the ground, backed by the coalition, will continue the military campaign.”

Negotiations, he said, had been intermittent but there had been no agreement. Some of the fighters, he added, were making their way to higher grounds. Border along Pakistan had been reinforced and it would be tough for them to escape, he said.

Some Al Qaeda fighters might have fled the area but it would not be possible for them to come out from Tora Bora as a body, he said.

Mr Keith said that they had crushed the Taliban as an organized military and political force.

APP ADDS: US Attorney General John Aschroft is visiting London on the first leg of a European tour to discuss legal steps the countries are taking to dismantle the mechanisms of international terrorism, he said.

More than 20 countries are now implementing or considering new legislation to tackle terrorism, he added.

The spokesman said the Coalition was committed to mine clearance in Afghanistan. “The Halo Trust — a non-governmental organization specializing in the removal of the debris of war — believes that Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world with an estimated 640,000 mines laid since 1979,” Keith said.