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'American al-Qaida' U.S.-bound

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 23, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Concerned that terrorists might try to silence him, the military Tuesday concealed the movements of John Walker Lindh as it flew the suspected al-Qaida fighter home to face charges that he conspired to kill other Americans.

Lindh, a 20-year-old from a middle-class family in upscale Marin County, Calif., left the Navy assault ship USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea sometime Monday. He is expected to arrive today in suburban Washington, where the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Virginia is located.

Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said the military was reluctant to give out information on Lindh's return to the United States for security reasons.

"There are people who don't want him to arrive in the States because of the information he may have," Lapan said.

War's price tag mounting

The war in Afghanistan is on track to become the nation's most expensive combat operation since the Vietnam War, if it hasn't reached that milestone already.

White House budget director Mitchell Daniels has pegged the price tag at roughly $1-billion a month.

Using that estimate, the total so far is at least $3-billion for an air campaign that began Oct. 7 and continued virtually nonstop through the middle of January.

Until now, the 1999 air campaign against Yugoslav Serbs in Kosovo and Serbia ranked as the costliest since Vietnam. That 78-day air attack cost about $3-billion.

The Afghanistan conflict has already surpassed the bill for the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. While Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm against Iraq racked up a $14-billion bill, that figure was substantially reduced by the $12-billion in reimbursements received from Persian Gulf nations.

Other developments

IN THE PHILIPPINES: About 36 U.S. Special Forces troops started a month of antiterrorism training with their Filipino counterparts at a northern army base Tuesday.

The Americans staged a joint simulated assault on a house controlled by terrorists, said Col. Jovenal Narcise, commander of the Philippine special forces involved in the exercise.

About 660 U.S. troops, including 160 Special Forces, are to participate in the anti-Abu Sayyaf mission -- codenamed "Balikatan" or "shouldering the load together" -- which the United States said it is launching as an extension of its war against terrorism, as early as Jan. 30.

IN AFGHANISTAN: U.S. special operations forces and Afghan anti-Taliban fighters staged a fruitless hunt for the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, in house-to-house searches during six hours through four villages in the southern province of Helmand, Afghan sources said Tuesday. U.S. officials refuse to comment on special forces operations.

As Afghan officials turned to the work of rebuilding their country, interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai urged the quick arrival of $4.5 billion in assistance that was pledged over the next several years at a conference of nearly 60 donor nations in Tokyo.

"We are happy with the results of the conference," Karzai said. In a nod to concerns that the money would not reach Afghanistan's poor, Karzai pledged to be "a samurai against corruption."

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