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Myers: Intelligence might have thwarted attacks

Senior Taliban fighters taken into custody

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials believe they have thwarted some terrorist attacks with intelligence gathered during the military campaign in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers would not give specifics, but he said U.S. authorities were working to gather information on al Qaeda and Taliban operations from recovered laptop computers and cellular phones, as well as from captured fighters.

U.S. forces say they have captured more al Qaeda suspects as they move through eastern Afghanistan. CNN's Jamie Mcintyre reports (January 9)

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U.S. investigators also said Tuesday a captured al Qaeda leader who helped run Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan has been "most cooperative."

Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi is being interrogated by U.S. officials aboard the USS Bataan, the amphibious assault ship in the Arabian Sea where American Taliban John Walker and eight other detainees are being held.

In an executive order in late September, President Bush ordered al-Libi's assets frozen along with those of other top al Qaeda members.

Al-Libi was listed among the 12 most wanted al Qaeda leaders. U.S. officials blame al Qaeda for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Myers said a team of Marines, Special Forces soldiers, explosive ordnance disposal experts and forensic experts was exploring a "very extensive" training camp at Zawar Kili, near Khowst, looking for intelligence on al Qaeda.

The Zawar Kili camp was bombed by U.S. missiles in 1998 as a suspected terrorist training site. Myers said those who had seen the complex described it as "huge."

"The sweep of this extensive complex continues again as we speak," Myers said.

The United States now has more than 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, more than triple the number who set up camp just two months earlier, Myers said.

More fighters taken

U.S. forces in the area near Khowst, near the Pakistani border, encountered a group of 14 suspected al Qaeda fighters Monday and took them into custody without resistance, Myers said.

The men "were senior enough that we thought they might have information we wanted," he said, and two have been transferred to the U.S. base at Kandahar.

A Pentagon spokesman Monday described the region where the fighters were taken, in eastern Afghanistan south of Jalalabad, as a hotbed of al Qaeda support. The region has been under intensive U.S. bombardment since Sunday.

In recent days, 11 people are said to have died in the village of Kundi during bombing, and many residents in the region have moved from their homes to safer locations.

As the bombing intensified around Khowst, the commander of the U.S. war effort said the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora caves near Jalalabad was ending.

Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, told The Associated Press on Monday that bin Laden and Taliban supporters had been in caves in the area, but the weeks-long search offered no hints as to the al Qaeda leader's whereabouts.

"We'll have that pretty well cleared and be out of there in the next day or so," Franks told the AP.

Pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda resistance remain around the country -- even in Kandahar, where U.S. Marines have maintained a substantial presence.

In Kandahar, an al Qaeda fighter attempting to escape from a hospital killed himself rather than be captured alive. He jumped from a second-story window. When he realized he was surrounded, he pulled out a grenade and blew himself up, officials said.

He and other fighters had been holed up in the hospital for weeks. Authorities said another six al Qaeda fighters were still inside the hospital -- with arms, food and apparently no intention of surrendering.




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