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US Military Questions Informant in Kandahar - 2002-01-18

U.S. military intelligence officials in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar are still questioning a man who is believed to be volunteering information about Osama bin Ladens al-Qaida and its Taleban supporters.

U.S. military officials based at Kandahar Airport are refusing to confirm reports that the man being interrogated may have once been a major financial backer of the Taleban leadership in Afghanistan. U.S. Marine spokesman, James Jarvis, said the military is releasing few details about the man for security reasons.

"We've had a chance to talk to him for a couple of days now," he said. "We continued that dialogue today. Once again, he is not a detainee. His identity, we're protecting simply for his own protection. I believe were getting some useful information but I can't go into the nature of what that information would be. Hopefully, down the road, it might be something we can use in this war on terrorism."

The informant turned up Tuesday at the gates of Kandahar Airport, where more than 3,000 U.S.-led coalition soldiers are stationed and where hundreds of al-Qaida and Taleban prisoners are being held. Officials at the Pentagon say the man is not on the U.S. list of wanted terror suspects.

Meanwhile, 30 more prisoners were put aboard a plane early Friday morning and transferred to an unknown location in Pakistan. More than 100 have already been transferred to a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is not known why the latest group was taken to Pakistan.

In the streets of Kandahar Friday, Afghan security forces fanned out across the city to confiscate illegal weapons. Armed soldiers randomly stopped vehicles at numerous checkpoints and searched for weapons. The increasing security measures being implemented in Kandahar, follow similarly steps being taken in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Increasing banditry and violence in Kandahar and other parts of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taleban two months ago have raised fears that lawlessness could derail the efforts of the new interim government to rebuild the country.