WASHINGTON, Aug 3: Pakistani intelligence officers arrive in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, late Saturday to interrogate terrorist suspects from their country held at a US prison facility, official sources said.

The five-member team, which arrived in Washington on Thursday evening, is headed by a senior official of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Tariq Farooq Mirza, and includes four lieutenant colonels from the Inter-Services Intelligence.

“They are coming here for intelligence gathering and background checks,” the official source told the United Press International.

“During their 12-day (Aug 1-12) stay in the United States, they will link up with a US team for jointly interrogating the prisoners,” he added.

The United States is holding about 384 prisoners of various nationalities at a prison constructed for the purpose on a US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Most of those held were captured in Afghanistan in the US-led offensive against the militant Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist organization.

Among them are about 40 Pakistani prisoners, most of them captured in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz in November last year.

Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo received international attention when a group of previously unknown militants kidnapped the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, demanding better facilities for the prisoners in return for Pearl’s release.

However, instead of negotiating with the US and Pakistani officials, the abductors killed Pearl. Since then four militants have been convicted for his murder in Pakistan, one sentenced to death and three jailed for life. All have appealed the verdict.

The Northern Alliance forces captured hundreds of Pakistanis from Kunduz, the only Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan. Most of them were religious volunteers who went to Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight the American forces.

Later, many were released by Afghan warlords who collected $3,000 to $6,000 each from their relatives for setting them free.

Pakistan says the alliance has handed over more than 100 Pakistani prisoners to India, a charge India denies.

Dr Najeeb bin al Nauimi, a Qatar lawyer who is representing Arab prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, has asserted that the warlords received as much as $30,000 each for releasing some rich Arab prisoners captured in Kunduz.

Nauimi said a consortium of wealthy Muslims, whom he declined to identify, told him that two lieutenants of a northern warlord, Gen Rashid Dostum, led the negotiations with the relatives of the prisoners.

Nauimi, a lawyer and former minister of justice of Qatar, said he had formed an international committee of lawyers to provide legal representation for the detainees.

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