Al Qaeda Prisoners Sent to Cuba

ByABC News

Jan. 10, 2002 -- U.S. forces took their first group of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners out of Afghanistan today, marching a group of 20 shackled, hooded prisoners onto an U.S. Air Force C-17 and taking off from Kandahar airport.

The prisoners are expected to be flown to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where they will be loaded onto a C-141 equipped for prisoner transport to Guantanamo Bay, due to arrive on Friday.

The prisoners were all chained together and outnumbered 2-to-1 by guards armed with stun guns.

Pentagon officials told ABCNEWS the prisoners might be sedated if necessary, and reports from a number of media outlets, including USA Today, said they would be chained to their seats, forced to use portable urinals and fed by their guards.

Since the war in Afghanistan began, al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners have staged bloody uprisings against their captors at least twice. In November, CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann became the first U.S. combat casualty in Afghanistan during a revolt near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

"There are among these prisoners people who are perfectly willing to kill themselves and kill other people," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at a briefing at the Pentagon today. He added that those overseeing the transfer have been authorized to use "appropriate restraint."

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said the detainees would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention rules on prisoners.

The Pentagon said the United States is holding a total of 364 Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners. It was not clear how many of them would be brought to Guantanamo Bay. American John Walker was not on today's flight.

Detainees arriving at Guantanamo will be kept in temporary "outdoor cells" until a permanent detention facility is built.

Shortly after the plane took off, small arms fire erupted on the perimeter of the Forward Operating Base, but the aircraft was never in danger and never took evasive action, the U.S. Central Command said.

The reason for the gunfire was not immediately clear. Marines and Afghan troops were working to contain the situation on the ground, which officials described as "ongoing."

Cleaning Up the Crash Site

Meanwhile, friends and family mourned the seven Marines that are presumed dead after their KC-130 cargo plane crashed into a mountainside as it approached for a landing near the Shamsi Air Base in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday.

Recovery efforts at the remote accident site, located southwest of the Pakistani border city of Quetta, continued today. No bodies had yet been recovered

The seven people identified on board were pilot Capt. Matthew W. Bancroft, 29, of Shasta, Calif.; co-pilot Capt. Daniel G. McCollum, 29, of Richland, S.C.; Gunnery Sgt. Stephen L. Bryson, 35, of Montgomery, Ala.; Staff Sgt. Scott N. Germosen, 37, of New York, N.Y.; Sgt. Nathan P. Hays, 21, of Wilbur, Wash.; and Lance Cpl. Bryan P. Bertrand, 23, of Coos Bay, Ore., and Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters of Gary ,Ind., 25, the first female U.S. soldier to die in the war on terrorism.

From their home in Gary, the parents of Winters — who served as a Marine for four years — said they were devastated, but also proud. "I'm very proud of my daughter," Matthew Winters told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today.

David Walton, the family chaplain who coached Winters in high school, described her as a "unique and wonderful person" who was always determined not to quit.

In Coos Bay, Ore., Bertrand's football coach, Kent Wigle, said the 23-year-old would be missed. "We've had a young man lose his life that was very special. And it hurts," he said.

Bertrand's death put the campaign in Afghanistan in a different perspective, Wigle added. "When something strikes this close to home it gives you a totally different attitude on what's going on in the world and what that act of terrorism has caused."

The Marines were part of a California-based squad known as "The Raiders" and all were based at the Miramar, Calif., Marine Corps Air Station.

Speaking to reporters in California on Wednesday, Maj. T.V. Johnson, Miramar's public affairs director, said the base was devastated.

"This is a tough time for the families, this is a tough time for the Marines — they were part of the Marine family," he said.

The flight, which originated in the Pakistani town of Jacobobad, home to the Shabaz Air Base, was flying low on approach at night in difficult terrain when it crashed into a mountain, creating an enormous fireball.

U.S. officials told ABCNEWS there was no indication the KC-130 was shot down, but the incident was under investigation. There were no distress calls, sources said. The plane simply disappeared from radar.

A Warning to Iran

In other developments:

In a warning to Iran, President Bush said the United States would "deal with them diplomatically, initially," if Iran tried to destabilize neighboring Afghanistan. The warning followed reports that Tehran, concerned about the perceived pro-Western stance of the new Afghan administration, was giving safe haven to fleeing al Qaeda members in a bid to fight Western influence in the region.

In eastern Afghanistan, U.S. warplanes continued to bomb an al Qaeda training camp in Khost. In recent days, the Zawar Kili, a training camp near Khost, has been the target of massive U.S. bombings as the military continues its mission to break up Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and prevent al Qaeda and Taliban members from regrouping.

Interim Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai has ordered armed men off the streets of Kabul in a bid to bolster security in the capital. On Wednesday, Karzai called for the formation of a national army and announced broad economic policy goals.

Amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and neighboring India, Pakistan denied a report in a local paper that it had received defense equipment from China.

ABCNEWS' Andrew Morse and Bill Blakemore in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Rebecca Cooper and Jason Ryan in Washington contributed to this report.

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