Pentagon, Taliban dispute capture of commandos
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said Saturday no evidence backs up an Arabic television report that three U.S. commandos and two Afghans assisting them were captured on a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan.
A Pentagon official said no evidence "lends credence" to the story and is convinced there is nothing to the report. He added the Pentagon is no longer investigating the facts.
Meanwhile, a White House administration official described the report as "bogus and untrue," and the Taliban Foreign and Defense ministries denied any arrests had been made.
The United States says Islamic militant Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization are the prime suspects in the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, and has demanded he be handed over. Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has allowed bin Laden to stay in Afghanistan as a "guest."
According to a reporter for Arabic language Al-Jazeera TV, which originates in Qatar, Americans and Afghans were found conducting reconnaissance in Afghanistan near its border with Iran, carrying maps of al Qaeda camps. The report did not say whether the five had been caught by Taliban or al Qaeda forces.
The reporter also said an al Qaeda source told him the Americans and Afghans were being interrogated.
U.S. officials told CNN on Friday that U.S. and British Special Operations forces have been conducting reconnaissance operations in the region and in Afghanistan. The missions, officials said, are meant to pave the way for any future action aimed at bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
Neither the Pentagon nor the White House would confirm or deny the report.
Sources said the elite U.S. and British commandos are not yet hunting bin Laden, whom the United States believes is still in Afghanistan, perhaps near the Taliban's headquarters in Kandahar. Instead, sources indicate Special Operations troops have been scouting the terrain, spotting landing zones and providing additional intelligence.
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