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US 'let Taleban men escape'


Times of London

THE United States secretly approved rescue flights by Pakistan into Kunduz that let Taleban leaders and al-Qaeda fighters escape from the besieged northern Afghan city before its fall last year, New Yorker magazine reports today.
US intelligence officials and military officers said that the Bush Administration approved the flights and ordered US Central Command to set up a special air corridor to ensure their safety to allow evacuation of Pakistani soldiers and intelligence men stranded by Northern Alliance victories.

“What was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus,” the magazine reports.

One senior US defence adviser said: “Everyone brought their friends with them. You’re not going to leave them behind to get their throats cut.”

Mysterious flights into Kunduz were reported by Northern Alliance officials in mid-November, but US and Pakistani officials denied an evacuation was under way.

Seymour Hersh, who wrote the report, said that President Musharraf of Pakistan won US support for the rescue by arguing that losing the men would risk his political survival.

A US supply helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, killing two Marines and injuring the other five aboard yesterday. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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