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Former Taleban Ambassador May be Put in US Custody - 2002-01-05


Pakistan is reported to be set to hand over Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taleban's former ambassador to Islamabad, to American forces in the region. Arrangements are now being made on the details of how he will be taken into U.S. custody.

Authorities here detained Mr. Zaeef for questioning Thursday. The former envoy was part of the Taleban's inner circle, and was the Islamic militia's most familiar face on television, until Pakistan ordered him to stop giving press briefings.

Pakistan is reported to have denied Mr. Zaeef's request for political asylum. Newspaper reports in the capital quote Mr. Zaeef's family as saying they have hired a lawyer to defend the former envoy, saying he has committed no crime, and still enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Pakistan is also reported to have handed over the al-Qaida member who ran Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan.

Reports from Washington say that Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi has been taken to Kandahar for questioning.

He was reportedly turned over by Pakistani authorities. Mr. al-Libi and Mr. Zaeef would be among the highest-ranking al-Qaida and Taleban officials under U.S. control.

American forces took more al-Qaida and Taleban members into custody on Friday, bringing the total number of prisoners to about 270.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says some will be sent for questioning to a detention center now being built at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is reported to be surrounded in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Anti-Taleban forces were sent to Helmand province to negotiate the surrender of Mullah Omar and an estimated 1,500 al-Qaida fighters.

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