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Archive for Saturday, April 6, 2002

Doctors: Injured bin Laden lieutenant remained composed, defiant after capture in Pakistan

April 6, 2002

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— Despite three gunshot wounds, a top Osama bin Laden lieutenant remained composed and defiant when he was taken into U.S. custody last week, medical staff who treated him said Saturday.

Abu Zubaydah, possibly the third-ranking figure in bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network, was shot in the stomach and leg during a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid March 28 on a hide-out in the southern city of Faisalabad, doctors said by telephone on condition of anonymity.

Rushed to the city's state-run Allied Hospital for treatment, Abu Zubaydah remained "composed and confident," according to one of the doctors who treated him. His main concern was who took care of him, staff said.

"He said: 'I should not be touched by Americans,'" a nurse said.

More than 100 people have been rounded up in raids the past week in Pakistan, some of which FBI and CIA agents joined. The raids represent a major setback to efforts by al-Qaida to reorganize following the defeat of their protectors, the conservative Islamic Taliban militia, in a U.S.-led war in Afghanistan last year.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of al-Qaida and Taliban members are believed to have fled Afghanistan and sought refuge in neighboring Pakistan with the help of Pakistani extremist groups.

Abu Zubaydah is the highest ranking al-Qaida figure in U.S. custody. With bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, in hiding, the 31-year-old Saudi-born Palestinian had taken over effective control of the organization, Afghan sources have told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has confirmed Abu Zubaydah's capture but has declined to say where he is being held.

When Abu Zubaydah arrived at Allied Hospital, he was bleeding heavily from his wounds, staff said. "We were just asked to do our best to save his life," a doctor said. When Abu Zubaydah left two days later, he was out of danger, he said.

Under cover of darkness, U.S. and Pakistani officials transferred the captives in an ambulance to the city airport, then took them to an undisclosed location, police and defense officials said.

While Abu Zubaydah remained composed during the transfer, two Arabs who were also injured in the raid shouted abuse at their captors and insisted that no Americans touch them, doctors said.

Police say Abu Zubaydah's Syrian bodyguard, Abu al-Hasnat, died from gunshot wounds during the raid.

In Faisalabad, police continue to guard the house where Abu Zubaydah was captured. Security personnel have visited the premises to try to decipher what are believed to be code words written on the kitchen wall, a senior police official said.

Convinced Abu Zubaydah was sending messages to his associates from the house, Pakistani investigators are searching files and the hard drive of a computer found there for information that could prevent future terrorists attacks, he said.

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