|Fears that US will use 'torture
lite' on al-Qaida No 3 |
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Wednesday March 5, 2003
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qaida leader captured in Pakistan over the weekend, was yesterday believed to be under interrogation at a US base in Afghanistan.
The White House denied he was being tortured, although there is speculation that a variety of techniques known in the intelligence community as "torture lite" would be used to get information from him.
Mohammed, who is said to to be the number three in al-Qaida, was arrested on Saturday in Pakistan, in a joint operation by the CIA and Pakistani police. He was initially interrogated in Pakistan but has now been moved.
The US does not comment on individual prisoners held in the wake of September 11, but Pakistani officials said they understood that he was now being held in Afghanistan, reportedly at the Bagram base.
The arrest follows last month's capture in Pakistan of Muhammed Abdel Rahman, a son of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up the UN offices in New York.
Information provided by Mr Rahman led to the latest arrest, according to a report in the New York Times.
There was also speculation that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was arrested in Pakistan last year, had given information about Mohammed under interrogation. The two had been in hiding together in Karachi.
Qari Abdul Wali, a Taliban military commander in hiding near the Afghan town of Spin Boldak, told Reuters that al-Qaida would remain intact despite the arrest.
"The arrest of a few individuals from within al-Qaida's ranks will have no bearing on the organisation's functioning," Mr Wali said. "Representatives of al-Qaida and the Taliban keep their communications going, but that doesn't mean we are likely to snitch on each other."
Interrogators are likely to seek two key pieces of information from Mohammed: plans for attacks on the US or US interests, and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in response to questions about the detention of Mohammed: "The standard for any type of interrogation of somebody in American custody is to be humane and to follow all international laws and accords dealing with this type subject. That is precisely what has been happening and exactly what will happen."
But lawyers for those detained after September 11 believe prisoners held abroad are often subjected to torture.
Randy Hamud, who represents a number of Arabs detained in San Diego, said he believed his clients had been taken to countries where they could be tortured. There have also been reports that police in countries such as Pakistan and Jordan are given prisoners by the US in the knowledge that they will be tortured.
A former member of US navy intelligence said that "torture lite" - sleep deprivation, and placing prisoners in awkward or painful positions for hours at a time - would be used.
The Democratic senator John Rockefeller suggested at the weekend that the US might consider turning over Mohammed to a country that does not ban torture. He told CNN: "I wouldn't take anything off the table where he is concerned, because this is the man who has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans over the last 10 years."
He had since said that he was not condoning torture.
The secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, said Mohammed would have significant information but would be hard to interrogate.
"We know that these individuals are trained and programmed in the craft of evasion. It will be very, very difficult to extricate information from this guy at this time."
There was also speculation that Mohammed would be questioned about the murder last year of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Attack on America
Terrorism threat to UK
02.12.2002: History of al-Qaida
07.09.2002: Inside the mind of Osama Bin Laden
Tracing the September 11 attackers
Al-Qaida profile - US department of state
FBI most wanted - Osama Bin Laden
Jane's International Security News
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