Notebook: Afghans push for surrender
GARDEZ, Afghanistan — Local Afghan leaders have appealed to al-Qaida and Taliban forces holed up in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan to surrender, a move that could delay a final ground assault on the area and strain relations with U.S. commanders eager to finish off the enemy.
A commander from Gardez sent the message to Taliban commander Saeef Rahman Mansour this week after days of bombardment by U.S. warplanes that have killed hundreds of his fighters, Afghan officials said. Mansour refused the overtures, but political and military leaders in this one-time Taliban stronghold said they wanted to keep trying.
A similar situation occurred during the battle of Tora Bora in December, when one Afghan commander negotiated a 48-hour cease-fire with al-Qaida forces, only to have U.S. officers refuse to go along.
U.S. officers, who have relied on Afghan soldiers to carry out much of the fighting in the craggy, 10,000-foot peaks, showed no sign yesterday of pausing for negotiations. Bombers continued to pound al-Qaida and Taliban positions. Reinforcements continued to arrive to strengthen the force of about 2,200 U.S., Afghan and allied troops.
A militia leader dispatched by the interim national government in Kabul took command of all Afghan forces in the region.
French military balk at attacks, paper says
PARIS — France has refused to allow its warplanes to attack some targets in Afghanistan assigned to them by U.S. commanders during the last week, arguing that the missions endangered civilians, Le Monde daily said.
Le Monde quoted responsible figures in the French military as saying French aircraft had completed around 20 missions in the Gardez region, attacking more than a dozen targets, in the last week.
France has deployed fighters from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and Mirage aircraft based in Kyrgyzstan.
Residents of Manhattan worry about terror trials
NEW YORK — New Yorkers living near the World Trade Center disaster site are asking the federal government to keep its terrorism trials and the dangers they could pose out of Manhattan.
A community board representing about 50,000 residents sent a letter to The White House Office of Homeland Security last month making that request and also asking for sophisticated monitoring devices to warn of biological, chemical and nuclear agents.
Two federal courthouses have been the site of six major terrorism trials since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center killed six people and injured more than 1,000. The same year, the FBI also unearthed a plot to blow up five New York City landmarks in a single day.
The terrorism trials have resulted in the convictions of two dozen men, many of whom spent weeks before the trial in a nearby federal lockup.
There have been at least two escape attempts, including one in which a guard was stabbed in the eye with a comb filed to a point, and area residents have long feared the courthouses could be targeted as revenge for terrorism-related arrests.
Iranian soldiers reportedly arrested in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An Iranian Revolutionary Guards general and eight other Iranians have been arrested by Afghan forces and handed over to U.S. authorities, an Afghan politician said yesterday.
The politician, Afghan royalist Izzatullah Wasafi, said the officer, whom he identified as a Gen. Razavi, was leading an Iranian group clandestinely distributing money and arms to allies in western Afghanistan when they were seized by Afghan forces last Tuesday.
The governor of Kandahar province abruptly decided to hand the men over to the U.S. military when he learned they were Iranians, Wasafi said.
A U.S. military official confirmed an Iranian group was being held at Kandahar's airport, an American base where scores of suspected members of the al-Qaida organization and the Afghan Taliban are also detained.
Muslim charity group sues over frozen assets
WASHINGTON — A Texas-based Muslim charity organization has filed a lawsuit after the Bush administration froze the group's financial assets for allegedly funneling money to terrorists.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development denies any ties with Hamas, a militant Islamic group that has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Israel.
The suit filed Friday in federal district court in Washington, D.C., contends the Bush administration violated the group's constitutional rights by closing the foundation's office in December and seizing its assets. The group raised $13 million two years ago and calls itself the largest Muslim charity in the United States.