Red Cross Suspects United States

Is Hiding Detainees in Secret Prisons

GENEVA -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday it suspects the United States is hiding detainees in lockups across the globe, though the agency has been granted access to thousands of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.

Terrorism suspects reported by the FBI as captured have never turned up in detention centers, and the United States has failed to reply to agency demands for a list of everyone it is holding, said Antonella Notari, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

"These people are, as far as we can tell, detained in locations that are undisclosed not only to us but also to the rest of the world," Notari said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said he was "looking further into" the Red Cross concerns and added, "We do work closely with the Red Cross on all detainee issues." He did not concede there was a problem. At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all Defense Department detention operations."

Under the Geneva Conventions, the United States is obliged to give the neutral, Swiss-run ICRC access to prisoners of war and other detainees to check on their conditions and allow them to send messages to their families.

U.S. officials contend that some terrorism suspects are not covered under the Geneva Conventions, but Notari said that "for humanitarian reasons," the Red Cross should be told about all detainees.

Asia

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Thousands of U.S. troops have begun an operation to prevent militants from derailing national elections set for Oct. 9, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said. Army Lt. Gen. David Barno insisted that the new effort would not detract from efforts to capture Osama bin Laden and other top fugitives. But he acknowledged that he had no firm idea where bin Laden is hiding.

In the southern city of Kandahar, suspected Taliban gunmen attacked a government office, killing the police chief and leaving the building in flames, officials said. Five people were reported killed in a string of attacks elsewhere.

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- In a survey that claims to be the most extensive yet on Afghan public opinion, two-thirds of respondents said they were optimistic about the future but remained worried about security and the ravaged economy.

A majority approved of interim leader and presidential candidate Hamid Karzai, according to the poll. Of those questioned, only 13 percent favored the ousted Taliban government. Two-thirds said they approved of the U.S.-backed overthrow of the repressive Islamic militia in late 2001.

The survey, commissioned by the Asia Foundation, a U.S.-based nongovernmental group that seeks to foster development in the Asia-Pacific region, drew on interviews with 804 rural and urban Afghans from Feb. 22 to March 13.

Europe

* VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Chechnya's acting president escaped an assassination attempt when an explosion tore through his motorcade, but one of his bodyguards was killed and three other people were wounded, officials said.

Sergei Abramov, who was appointed to lead the Kremlin-backed Chechen government after the May 9 assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov, was not injured by the roadside blast in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

* LONDON -- A terminally ill Egyptian suspected of links to Osama bin Laden and involvement in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania was ordered freed on bail by a British High Court judge. The judge said the 42-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, was being freed because he had bone marrow cancer.

* PARIS -- Days after claiming she was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack that stunned France, a young mother confessed she fabricated the story, authorities said. There was no immediate explanation of her motives.

-- From News Services