10/09/2005

ABC News: Document: Bin Laden Evaded U.S. Forces

WASHINGTON Mar 23, 2005 — A commander for Osama bin Laden during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union who helped the al-Qaida leader escape American forces at Tora Bora is being held by U.S. authorities, a government document says.

The document represents the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden, the mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was at Tora Bora and evaded his pursuers.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney asserted during the presidential election that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked there in December 2001. They dismissed assertions by Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, that the military had missed a chance to capture or kill bin Laden while al-Qaida made a last stand in the mountainous area along the Pakistan border.


The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." While not identified by name or nationality, he is described as being "associated with" al-Qaida and having called for a holy war against the United States.

In an indication that he might be a higher-level operative, the document says the detainee "had bodyguards" and collaborated with regional al-Qaida leadership. "The detainee was one of Osama bin Laden's commanders during the Soviet jihad," it says, referring to the holy war against Soviet occupiers in the 1980s.

The document is what the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" and was presented against one of 558 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay on Dec. 14 for a hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an "enemy combatant." The assertion about his efforts and bin Laden's escape is made as a statement of fact; it does not indicate how the information was obtained.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Board for which the document was prepared, said Tuesday he could not elaborate on the Tora Bora statement, or its sources, because the statement was derived from classified information.

ABC News: Document: Bin Laden Evaded U.S. Forces at Tora Bora

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