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FBI to interview al Qaeda in Kandahar

Anti-Taliban forces found stocks of ammunition in caves formerly occupied by al Qaeda in Tora Bora.  

(CNN) -- FBI agents in Kandahar plan to interview 15 captured al Qaeda fighters whom U.S. officials believe could be senior members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization, a top Pentagon official said in Washington Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the men were "selected because we concluded ... these were people who might have important information or might themselves be senior people."

The fighters were transferred Tuesday from a prison near Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan to a newly built detention center at the Kandahar International Airport. (Full story)

FBI Special Agent Tom Knowles, who is at the Kandahar airport, said the agents will be trying to learn about planned al Qaeda attacks and want to collect information about past actions, including the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11.

He said interrogations of al Qaeda members in the past had been less than fruitful. "They can be a hard group and sometimes, it's very difficult to get them to talk to us," Knowles said.

The United States is holding five other detainees, including American Taliban fighter John Walker, aboard the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea. U.S. officials said no decisions have been made about Walker's fate. (Full story)

In Washington, FBI officials told Congress only a few hundred of the 70,000 to 80,000 men who trained in al Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan represent "an actual terrorist threat" to the United States.

FBI counterterrorism executives J.T. Caruso and Thomas Wilshere told a Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee that many of those who went through the Afghan training camps support the goals of al Qaeda but did not stay on as active fighters.

"For many it was probably a late teen adventure, and they have gone back to real life," said Wilshere, the deputy of the FBI's International Terrorism Operational Section.

Watch entire Osama bin Laden videotape, released by the Pentagon on Thursday (December 13)

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CNN's Nic Robertson tours a cave near Tora Bora, lined with mortar bombs and ammunition, that al Qaeda fighters abandoned (December 17)

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Should the U.S. have sent troops to Tora Bora to capture al Qaeda escapees?

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Latest developments

• President Bush told congressional leaders Tuesday more videotapes have been recovered along with other materials from al Qaeda installations in Afghanistan. The tapes were being viewed and analyzed by U.S. investigative and intelligence agencies, he said. "We don't know what they are, just that some have been gathered," a senior administration official told CNN. (Full story)

• The anthrax found in letters sent to two U.S. senators is a genetic match to a strain of the bacteria maintained by the Army since 1980, a senior U.S. official said. However, the official and a spokesman for the Army lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, said that does not narrow down the source because both the Army and the Department of Agriculture have distributed the strain to labs in the United States and overseas. (Full story)

• The federal government has agreed to offer an anthrax vaccine to thousands of postal employees and Capitol Hill workers who were exposed to the bacteria, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday. (Full story)

• Anti-Taliban fighters searched the mountain caves of eastern Afghanistan Tuesday for any signs of bin Laden but heavy snow hampered their efforts. Bin Laden's whereabouts have been the subject of much speculation, with some captured al Qaeda fighters claiming he is still in the Tora Bora area. But a Pentagon spokesman conceded Monday it's "anybody's guess" where bin Laden is. (Full story)

• The U.S. Central Command said Tuesday two U.S. C-130 transport planes, originally thought to have been attacked near Kandahar, were not fired upon. The planes took evasive action after seeing flashes on the ground they thought were surface-to-air missiles. Officials now believe the flashes may have been part of celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

• Haji Gulalai, Afghan intelligence chief for Kandahar, said information indicated Taliban supreme spiritual leader Mullah Omar and several hundred fighters were hiding near the town of Baghran, about 100 miles northwest of Kandahar. Gulalai said, however, going after Omar is not a top priority. (Full story)

• The U.S. Central Command said a U.S. soldier was injured Tuesday during mine clearing operations at Bagram Airport in northern Afghanistan. The soldier's injuries were not life threatening, the military said.

• Yemeni forces have initiated an attack in an area of the country where authorities believed a member of al Qaeda was hiding, sources told CNN Tuesday. (Full story)

• U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told NATO defense ministers Tuesday the alliance must prepare for terrorists who will use everything from computers to cruise missiles to wreak havoc. (Full story)

• Hamid Karzai, head of Afghanistan's interim government, met Mohammad Zahir Shah, the country's former king who has lived in exile in Rome since 1973. The talks are aimed at paving the way for the exiled monarch's return and establishing a grand council to map out the country's future as part of a United Nations-sponsored peace plan. (Full story)

• Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Monday the uncertainty of another terror attack is the No. 1 threat against the United States. In an interview with CNN, Ridge discussed scenarios including the terrorist sabotage of a chemical facility. (Full story)

• The three U.S Marines injured Sunday in a landmine explosion near the Kandahar airport were taken to hospitals outside Afghanistan for treatment, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday. Doctors amputated the leg of one Marine, he said, and the other two sustained head and hand injuries. (Full story)


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