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Rumsfeld Denies US Plans to Turn Over Captured al-Qaida Official - 2002-04-03

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the top U.S. priority in dealing with a detained top al-Qaida official is extracting intelligence information on planned terrorist attacks.

Mr. Rumsfeld is incensed by news reports speculating that the United States might turn over captured al-Qaida leader Abu Zubaydah to some foreign country, where he could be tortured to force him to talk.

"Reports to that effect are wrong, inaccurate, not happening and will not happen," Mr. Rumsfeld tells Pentagon reporters.

Mr. Rumsfeld says Abu Zubaydah is currently in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location, following his capture by Pakistani authorities last week.

He says the al-Qaida official suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and is receiving medical treatment so he can be interrogated.

"He will be properly interrogated by proper people who know how to do those things," Secretary Rumsfeld said.

But Mr. Rumsfeld added that concerns for Abu Zubaydah's well-being are, in his view, misdirected. The top priority is getting intelligence information from him.

"Here's a man who knows about additional terrorist acts," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "Here's a man who trained people to do this, and all this concern about that individual as opposed to concern about the terrorist acts that individual has tried to commit, has in fact participated in, who has trained people to do it, and who has knowledge of additional people located around the world, it seems to me, I have it exactly right. I've got first things first, and anything else comes a clear 10th, 11th or 12th," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States has received a great deal of intelligence materials in connection with the capture of Abu Zubaydah and other suspected al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan.

He said it is all under examination. He said the goal is protecting the people of the United States and other countries.