LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
War on Terror: Iran and al Qaeda
Aired July 23, 2003 - 20:23 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Other major news about the war on terror is coming out of Iran. The government there says it has "a large number of top al-Qaeda leaders in custody and is on the hunt for more."
National correspondent Mike Boettcher is following the story in our Washington bureau tonight. Hi - Mike.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Paula. Well, for several weeks now, we've heard unconfirmed reports coming out of Iran and the Middle East saying that the Iranians had arrested some high level al-Qaeda members.
Now, this was unconfirmed until today, when the most unlikely of sources, the Iranians themselves and their intelligence ministers, the one who confirmed that, indeed, they are holding what they say are high level al-Qaeda members.
Now, Ali Yunesi, the intelligence chief, said they are holding large numbers. He said some had already been deported to their home countries. He said others were in custody.
Now, late today, CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, confirmed with U.S. officials that four are indeed in custody, two of them are big fish.
One is Saif Al-Adel, who is ostensibly the military chief of al- Qaeda. His code name in al-Qaeda is Makowi (ph). He was with the special forces in Egypt and has been a long-term associate of Osama bin Laden, advising him on tactical and strategic military matters. He is considered very, very important.
The second person is Sulemain Abu Gheith. Now, Abu Gheith is the spokesman, so to speak, but more, he is the spin mister for al-Qaeda. He delivers the message. And late today, the White House reacted to these messages from Iran.
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SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The statements would appear to confirm what we and others believe to be a significant al-Qaeda presence in Iran, to include members of its senior leadership.
These terrorists, we've made very clear, must be brought to justice. We, along with a number of our allies, have called on Iran to turn these terrorists over to the United States or to their countries of origin so that they will face justice for their terrorist activities.
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BOETTCHER: U.S. officials say they have received no official word from the Iranians that they have these people in custody and want to turn them over - Paula.
ZAHN: Mike Boettcher, thanks so much.
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