Afghan Escapee Belatedly Named as Bin Laden Lieutenant

Planes sit at Bagram air base, Afghanistan, where four prisoners escaped in July. Indonesia says it was not notified about the suspect it had handed over.
Planes sit at Bagram air base, Afghanistan, where four prisoners escaped in July. Indonesia says it was not notified about the suspect it had handed over. (By Musadeq Sadeq -- Associated Press)

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By Daniel Cooney
Associated Press
Thursday, November 3, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 2 -- The cells and doors at the U.S. military jail in Afghanistan have been fortified, a U.S. official said Wednesday, as details emerged about a breakout in July by a suspected al Qaeda leader and three other men who picked locks and evaded a minefield.

The Pentagon's belated confirmation of the identity of one of the four escapees sparked anger in Southeast Asia, where the prisoner, Omar Farouq, had been a top lieutenant of Osama bin Laden. Although the escape from the facility at Bagram air base was widely reported when it happened, U.S. authorities gave out only an alias to identify Farouq.

Officials in Indonesia, where Farouq was captured in 2002 before being handed over to U.S. authorities, criticized the United States for failing to inform them about the escape.

"We know nothing about the escape of Omar al-Farouq," said Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, an anti-terrorism official. "His escape will increase the threat of terrorism in Indonesia."

U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales described the apparent breakdown in communication as a "serious problem" and told CNN in an interview that it would be investigated.

Farouq, who was born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents, joined al Qaeda in the early 1990s and trained in Afghanistan, according to Ken Conboy, a security consultant based in Indonesia.

Farouq later plotted to stage bombings at U.S. embassies across Southeast Asia a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, but the plan was thwarted and he was captured, Conboy said.

The four escapees boasted about their breakout on a video broadcast Oct. 18 on al-Arabiya, a television network based in Dubai, according to two editors at the station, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the news media. In the video, the men show other prisoners a map of the base and the location of their cell. The editors would not say how they received the video.


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