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British Force Helps Afghan Police; Bounty Hunters Look for Suspects

Aired January 18, 2002 - 09:04   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The latest on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. U.S. intelligence officials thought they might have had the intelligence break when a man who identified himself as an al Qaeda financier turned himself in to U.S. Marines in Kandahar.

Well, now U.S. officials are telling us he may not be the catch they thought, and he may not know where to find Osama bin Laden.

On the ground in Afghanistan, the international security force is growing. Now 1,400, but steadily climbing.

CNN's Michael Holmes talked with the British commander in charge of them all, and he joins us now from Kabul -- I know you have got a lot to cover here. Do you want to start first with the international force, and then we'll come back to this alleged informant?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sure, Paula. Good evening from Kabul.

This "ISAF" force, as its called, the International Security Assistance Force, its role very much one of securing Kabul, providing an atmosphere where there is law and order. Their official role is as a support for the local police force, but let's remember that police force has been up and running for, well, only a couple of months now or even less, and the role of the international troops here is one of supporting them on daily, nightly patrols around Kabul and its environs.

These local police under-trained, under-equipped, under-armed, and I think it's fair to say that the international troops do take the lead on these patrols, and they are very much involved, also, in training the local police. It's a big job, it's a fascinating operation -- Paula.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit more about what the exact role of the force will be.

HOLMES: Well, it's defined as creating the environment for security. That's under the UN mandate under which they operate. Basically, they are just making sure that there is a lid on any trouble here that may occur, and not a lot has occurred in Kabul. Some has, not a lot. The makeup of the group is quite extraordinary. 17 nations are involved. They range all the way from Romania to Great Britain. Great Britain taking the role as the commander. The commander in chief here, the CO, if you like, is a general, a British Major General John McCoal (ph) from Great Britain. He told us today that the troops under his command, who, as I said, drive the streets of Kabul day and night, are ready for anything.


MAJOR GENERAL JOHN MCCOAL, COMMANDER OF ISAF: If there is a situation where the security situation is unsatisfactory, and they feel they have to intervene, they have all the powers they need to be able to take whatever action is necessary.


HOLMES: Certainly well armed and well prepared, Paula. Also, just a little side by here. Some of those troops are getting lessons in the local language, Dari (ph), just so they can communicate better on street level -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Michael, bring us up to date, now, on word that this informant, that U.S. government officials talked with yesterday, may not be -- may not have this treasure trove of information they thought he had, particularly like, where is Osama bin Laden.

HOLMES: That is as always, as it has been since September 11th. Where is Osama bin Laden? The short answer, as it has been from the beginning, no one really knows for sure.

A body of thought says that he is still in Afghanistan. Certainly U.S. officials seem to think that way, along with Mullah Mohammed Omar as well, the former Taliban leader. Others say that he might be in Pakistan, he could really be anywhere.

Certainly, the word on the ground is that American forces looking for him aren't getting all the support that they felt they should have from Pashtun leaders regionally, and are having to do a lot of the looking themselves. A lot more aerial activity over those areas, and a lot more troops on the ground doing the hard slog themselves -- Paula.

ZAHN: Michael, what about this guy that was supposed to tell them exactly where Osama bin Laden was? Was he a fraud?

HOLMES: Sorry Paula, I didn't catch that.

ZAHN: What about this informant that the U.S. government was pinning their hopes on? They thought he might have information that would lead them to Osama bin Laden? Is there anything useful he has told them?

HOLMES: Yeah, apparently that was the initial thought. The intelligence that we've heard is that is no longer the case. He may not have been all he made himself out to be. Obviously, not a lot of information coming from U.S. sources at the moment as they still try to work out exactly who he is, and what he knows. Until they work that out for sure, I don't suppose they are going to be telling us much of anything, but it certainly appears that he's not who he said he was in the beginning -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right. Michael Holmes, thanks for covering so much ground for us this morning. Appreciate that update.

And now to the new faces of terror, and the U.S. Justice Department needs your help to track them down. Five suspected al Qaeda terrorists appear in the just released videotapes seized in Afghanistan. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the men appear bent on becoming martyrs for Osama bin Laden.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Little is known to law enforcement at this point about the other individuals featured on the videotapes. Investigators are extremely interested in identifying and locating these individuals as soon as possible.

Photographs and descriptive data have been disseminated to law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide. Investigators note that these men could be anywhere in the world.


ZAHN: And that's exactly where our next two guests come in, they are bounty hunters. Bob Burton is the president and co-founder of the National Institute of Bail Enforcement. He's joining us, very early in the morning, from Los Angeles this morning. And in Albany, New York, Howard Pritzker, president of Lone Wolf Recovery. Happy Friday to you both, thanks to you both for being with us.

Bob, how would you plan to mobilize your men out there, now that we have seen the pictures of these five new alleged terrorists?

BOB BURTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF BAIL ENFORCEMENT: Well, thank you, Miss Zahn. We have taken pictures, the best ones we could get, and I've given them to a -- I'll say, a 13-year-old computer expert. He's a little older. And this person is going to take those pictures and put them in Western garb. Remove the turbans, remove the beards, and Westernize them.

That would give us a much better perspective of how they may look living in an apartment building three units down.

ZAHN: Howard, are you putting any bounty hunters on the case here?

BURTON: We have about -- I'm sorry.

ZAHN: Howard, go ahead.


PRITZKER: Go ahead, Bob.

BURTON: We have about 30 hunters, including Mr. Pritzker. I'll let him elaborate, since he's our East coast connection.

ZAHN: Okay, Howard, so we've just heard the process that you go through to try to visualize what these men might have -- or might look like if they've altered their appearance. What do your bounty hunters do next?

PRITZKER: Well, the initial step, is to Westernize these people, as Bob had stated earlier. We then distribute photographs to our active agents. We're predominantly centralizing on the East coast at this time.

These posters -- these pictures will be made into posters. They'll be posted in all conspicuous areas. We intend that at this individual is driving a taxicab, we're going to ride in the cab with him. If he works at McDonald's, we're going to eat at McDonalds. If he stops at the local pub for a drink, we are going to be there when he arrives.

So, we intend to make his life extremely uncomfortable.

ZAHN: Bob, the last time we talked, back in October, your men were also out there looking for some of the men on the FBI's most- wanted list. Give us an update on how they have cooperated the FBI. Have you gotten any information out of your hunters?

BURTON: Fully. We have cooperated fully with the FBI. We're happy to do it, and that's the only reason we're doing it, to get our information into federal hands, and ironically, contrary to past experience, the FBI has been cooperating with us, and giving us tidbits of information.

Once we establish our bonafides (ph), the agents -- the FBI agents begin to trust our agents, there is a mutual trust, and once that mutual trust is established, business, law enforcement, law -- or rather, military, a world of change can occur.

And, yes, unfortunately, even I don't know, but I do know this. Some data has been passed on to federal agents in Manhattan has proved helpful via our agents, and I'm happy to say that.

ZAHN: All right. Howard, in closing, we know that no one has gotten to Osama bin Laden yet, or Mullah Omar. What are the chances of anybody getting any information on these five new suspects?

PRITZKER: Anything is possible, Paula. We never know who we're going to contact, or what they are going to say, or what information they have. The key issue here is if we find out anything, the government will find out immediately after we do. We intend to fully share all our information. ZAHN: Well, we plan to stay in touch with both of you. Bob Burton, Howard Pritzker. Thank you, again, for joining us this morning. Particularly you, Bob, who had to get up so early out there, and good luck...


BURTON: You're the best, Miss Zahn. You're the best.

ZAHN: That's -- that's very kind of you. Thank you so much.

PRITZKER: Thank you, Paula. We appreciate the time.

ZAHN: Okay. Good luck.




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