Bounty offered for death, capture of Westerners, U.S. officials say

Taliban, al-Qaida leaflets promise villagers reward of as much as $100,000

April 06, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan - Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are offering bounties of up to $100,000 for the killing or capture of American soldiers and other Westerners, American officials said yesterday.

The rewards, offered on leaflets that American officials claim are being passed to villagers in eastern Afghanistan, are among the "credible threats" against American soldiers and other Westerners here, officials said. Among the others, the officials said, are rocket and mortar attacks and car bombs.

The American officials did not produce any leaflets, and they gave few details about them, but said that they offered $50,000 for the body of a Westerner and $100,000 for a Westerner who is alive.

"We continue to receive credible threats of violence against coalition service members, citizens and journalists," Maj. Bryan Hilferty told reporters at this base north of Kabul.

American military officials said that the leaflets offering the bounty had been pushed under doors during the night in villages in Paktia province, an area near the Pakistani border thought to contain many Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, and where segments of the local population are believed to be sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The American military officials said that such fliers would be a measure of the desperation felt among the Taliban and al-Qaida, who have been routed from their strongholds in most of the country and now survive in isolated pockets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Americans are distributing leaflets offering rewards of their own in the region, most urging local Afghans to support the Western-backed government and to help the military forces there capture or kill fugitive Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

One such leaflet was shown off recently by an Afghan resident in the southeastern town of Khowst.

"Dear Friends," the leaflet read, "Islam is against terrorism. Please try to discover and turn over members of al-Qaida and get the cash award."

American officials also said that local Afghans were being threatened against cooperating with Western forces or supporting the interim government here.

American officials described their concerns against a backdrop of continuing attacks against foreigners, military and civilian. On Wednesday, American soldiers patrolling the Shah-e-Kot valley, the site of a major battle with Taliban and al-Qaida forces last month, were the apparent targets of a rocket attack. No one was injured.

Earlier this week, Afghan officials who said that they had broken up a conspiracy to destabilize the interim government also said that they had uncovered evidence that the plotters intended to carry out attacks against foreigners in the capital, Kabul.

A Norwegian working at Bagram Air Base was seriously injured yesterday when an anti-personnel mine he was trying to defuse exploded. Torbjoern Saeterboe, 30, suffered shrapnel wounds to the face and may have been blinded, army officials said.

The instability around the country underlay remarks yesterday by Hamid Karzai, the chairman of the interim government, who reiterated his request that the international peacekeeping force now patrolling the streets of Kabul be expanded to other parts of Afghanistan. Karzai has made the request repeatedly, making the point that the Afghan government, with only a fledgling army of its own, is unable to control the private militias roaming the countryside.

After visiting with officials in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Karzai told reporters at the airport that "Afghans outside of Kabul would like to see the extension" of the force "as a guarantee of continued security." The Turks are to take over leadership of the current peacekeeping force from the British and have expressed their opposition to the expansion envisioned by Karzai.

Karzai is pressing on in the face of continued resistance from Western countries, whose troops constitute the bulk of the 4,500-member force. The main countries supplying troops to the force, like Britain and France, have expressed reluctance about sending more, and the United States has expressed reluctance about guaranteeing the force's safe exit from the country.

Last month, Vice President Dick Cheney said the Bush administration would oppose the expansion of the force and focus instead on helping to train the Afghan national army.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.