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Afghanistan: Bin Laden Videotape Names Hijackers

Washington, 21 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A more thorough translation by one of the experts hired by the U.S. government to review a videotape of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden names some of the 11 September hijackers. Translator George Michael identified three of the hijackers mentioned by bin Laden as Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi, and Wail Alshehri.

Alshehri was on American Airlines flight 11, one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York. Alhamzi and Alhamzi were on American Airlines flight 77, which hit the Pentagon.

Michael, one of two translators hired by the government, said he handed the more detailed transcript to the Pentagon earlier this week. Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke it was not surprising to find more information with a more in-depth study of the conversation.

The Pentagon released the first transcript last week, offering a glimpse of terrorist planning as bin Laden told his aides and clerics that the deaths and destruction achieved by the attacks exceeded his "most optimistic" expectations.

In other news, the first elements of a UN-backed international security force are expected in the Afghan capital Kabul today ahead of the installation of a new interim government.

Fifty-three lightly armed British Royal Marines landed late yesterday at Bagram airport, 25 kilometers north of Kabul, part of an advance contingent of up to 200 British soldiers who will assist the new administration in maintaining peace in the city.

The UN Security Council yesterday approved the deployment of a British-led peace support mission expected to total 5,000 at most. The troops will remain in Kabul and its surroundings for at least six months, until the interim government steps down in favor of a new transitional authority.

The 53-strong British Marines squad will escort members of the new government to Kabul when they arrive at Bagram. The inauguration ceremony will take place tomorrow.

In related news, a spokesman for the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition, Kenton Keith, said today in Islamabad that an estimated 7,000 Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters were being held prisoner in Afghanistan. U.S. security agents are interrogating some of them, who may have information about the whereabouts of Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.