Published March 05, 2003
BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Where the suspected mastermind behind the World Trade Center attacks is being held depends on whom you talk to.
Col. Roger King, spokesman for U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, refused to comment on reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was being kept at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul.
"It is our continuing policy not to comment on specific individuals," King said in an interview Tuesday night. "If he were to come here, we would not comment on it."
American military officials regularly refuse to comment on the identities or nationalities of detainees, even low-level detainees, at Bagram.
Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, however, that Mohammed was handed over Tuesday to U.S. authorities, who took him to the interrogation center at Bagram.
The Afghan minister of information, Said Makhdoon Raheen, also said Tuesday that Mohammed, the alleged No. 3 man in Al Qaeda, was being held at Bagram.
While King wouldn't comment on Mohammed's whereabouts, he did confirm to Foxnews.com that an unspecified number of detainees had been sent to Bagram Air Base in the past week.
He would not say whether the prisoners were captured in Afghanistan or in another country.
Kuwait-born Mohammed, who is of Pakistani origin, was captured in a bloodless joint Pakistani-CIA raid last week in Rawalpindi, sister city to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
Some authorities said he was questioned by Pakistani police but then immediately spirited by American officials out of the country, while others say he spent a few days in Pakistani custody.
Mohammed's capture was a big victory in the ongoing U.S. hunt for terror suspects around the world. He is regarded by U.S. intelligence as the man who meticulously planned the Sept. 11, 2001 airliner attacks that killed more than 3,000 people, destroyed New York City's landmark World Trade Center towers and scarred the Pentagon.
Detainees at Bagram are kept at a nondescript multistory yellow building in the heart of the dusty and windy base, surrounded by a concrete wall and concertina wire.
King said there were fewer than 100 detainees at Bagram, some taken during military operations in Afghanistan, others being held temporarily while en route to other destinations.
Another large detention center in the southern city of Kandahar was shut down last year.
Asked whether Mohammed could provide useful information for finding Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, King replied that "virtually everybody gives you something that's useful."
"Whether it would go toward that specific end [finding bin Laden]," he continued, "I really wouldn't want to go down that road because it's really early in the game."
Responding to questions about Mohammed's treatment and recent reports of physical abuse against detainees, King said American forces use the Geneva Convention for prisoners of war as a "guideline."
As a general rule, "It depends on what we think the individual might know, what we think the individual may have done," King explained. "It's all dependent upon the individual and who that person is."
King said two prisoners died at the Bagram facility in December and those deaths were being investigated by the U.S. military.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.