Al-Qa'eda four on the run from US base
London Telegraph | July 12, 2005
By Francis Harris
Four al-Qa'eda terrorists described as a danger to the world escaped from the biggest American base in Afghanistan yesterday.
It was the latest embarrassment for an allied operation facing increasingly tough resistance.
Scores of American troops were seen throwing a cordon round the Bagram air base, near Kabul, and helicopters were flying over the area.
Lt Col Jerry O'Hara, a US military spokesman, said the escapers were senior figures.
"We consider this very serious business," he said. "These guys are dangerous not only to Afghanistan but to the world in general."
An Afghan official named the men as Abdullah Hashimi, a Syrian, Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammad from Kuwait, Mahmoud Alfatahni from Saudi Arabia, and Mohammad Hassan, a Libyan.
There were no American casualties during the escape.
Lt Col O'Hara said: "I can't give specifics on how they escaped. The circumstances are under investigation."
It was not even clear yesterday that the men, who would have been clothed in the notorious bright orange jumpsuits issued by the US military, had broken out of the facility.
Military policemen were searching the base in case they were hiding there.
Kaber Ahmad, an Afghan official in the town of Bagram, said: "Coalition forces, police and Afghan troops have surrounded several villages near the base. The coalition has distributed photos of the four. They all have short hair, long beards and are wearing prison clothes."
About 450 prisoners are held at Bagram, including senior al-Qa'eda and Taliban leaders.
It is the first known escape from the facility.
The news came hours after the American military said it had recovered the body of the last missing man from a lost patrol of four navy special forces, or Seals, which ran into a vicious firefight in the mountains of south-eastern Afghanistan almost a fortnight ago. Three are now confirmed dead while one was rescued last week.