Fighting terror notebookCompiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 19, 2002
Videos show chemical weapon tests
A vast cache of videotapes found in Afghanistan provides the clearest evidence yet to corroborate U.S. government charges that al-Qaida developed chemical agents and tested them on animals.
Sunday night, CNN began broadcasting portions of tapes it obtained, one of which shows what appears to be the agonizing death of three dogs exposed to a chemical agent, evidently before Sept. 11.
The tape was among more than 251 that Nic Robertson, a CNN reporter, brought out of Afghanistan 10 days ago. Experts said the collection is the largest known assembly of videotape ever made by al-Qaida of its activities -- a library that was collected, cataloged and stored by unknown individuals, apparently to document the history of al-Qaida.
The archive includes instruction tapes on bomb-making and on how to shoot surface-to-air weapons, as well as the first meeting of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders with foreign journalists in May 1998, and often violent tapes contributed by affiliated groups in Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere.
The earliest videotapes dated back to the late 1980s; the most recent included news broadcasts of the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Robertson and senior CNN executives declined to say precisely how or where they located the tapes, but said CNN did not pay for them. Robertson said he drove 17 hours from the Afghan capital of Kabul about two weeks ago to view the tapes, which he said had been moved away from their original location. After watching the material for more than a day, he selected 60 tapes of greatest interest and took them out of Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency said the agency could not comment on the significance of the material because CNN had not provided the tapes to the agency. But he said the tapes, as described, were consistent with what intelligence analysts have said about al-Qaida's quest for chemical and other weapons of mass destruction, and its testing of "crude" agents.
Government and private chemical weapons and terrorism experts watched many hours the tapes last week, as did a reporter for the New York Times.
One of those experts, Magnus Ranstorp, director-designate of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, said the tapes suggested that Western intelligence agencies might even now be underestimating al-Qaida.
"In conjunction with the Encyclopedia of Jihad and other written manuals, the tapes show meticulous planning, preparation, and attention to the tradecraft of terror," said Ranstorp.
Poppy crop reduction failed, U.N. says
KABUL, Afghanistan -- The new Afghan government has "largely failed" in its 4-month-old effort to eradicate the opium poppy crop in Afghanistan, which in recent years became the world's biggest producer of the raw material for heroin, U.N. crop experts reported Sunday.
Their figures show the 2002 crop, close to the high levels of the late 1990s, could be worth more than $1-billion at the farm level.
"That's a big chunk of GDP," said Hector Maletta, a spokesman for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. This impoverished nation's gross domestic product for 1999, the latest estimate available, was $21-billion.
In 2000, the Taliban government banned poppy cultivation, and U.N. and U.S. drug agencies determined that this led to a 96 percent reduction in acreage devoted to the crop in the 2001 growing season.
But the U.S.-led war that ousted the Taliban late last year prompted Afghan farmers to plant poppy again over tens of thousands of acres.
Details may complicate appeal in Pearl slaying
KARACHI, Pakistan -- Three Pakistani militants who led police to the body of Daniel Pearl claim the Wall Street Journal correspondent was murdered by an Arab two days after he tried to escape from kidnappers, investigators said Sunday.
The new details of Pearl's kidnap-slaying do not exonerate British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted with three others July 15. Saeed was sentenced to death by hanging; the others got life sentences.
However, their claims, which have been rumored for weeks in Pakistan, could influence the appeal filed by Saeed and the others with the High Court here in Sindh province. Some of the new purported details conflict with evidence presented at the first trial.
Two police investigators, who spoke on condition they not be named, said three militants -- Naeem Bukhari, Fazal Karim and Zubair Chishti -- have admitted a role in Pearl's kidnapping, the Associated Press reported.
According to the two investigators, Pearl tried to escape as he was being led to the toilet during his sixth day in captivity. However, he was tackled by Karim and Chishti, who beat him and shot him in the leg.
A day after the escape attempt, police said, Bukhari told his fellow kidnappers that they must kill Pearl, although the officers said it was unclear who gave the order for his murder.
On the ninth day of the kidnapping, three Arabs, whom the suspects believed to have been Yemenis, were brought to the hide-out, the police said. The two officers said the militants told them the Arabs were associates of Ramzi Yousef -- the imprisoned mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Police said the kidnappers began questioning Pearl when Karim seized Pearl's hands and one of the Arabs slit his throat.
The effect of the new allegations on the case against Saeed and the three others is unclear.
Pakistani lawyers not involved in the case said the appeals court, which agreed to consider the case this week, could order a new trial if the account is corroborated.
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