WASHINGTON – U.S. forces captured two al-Qaida fighters believed to be Iraqi nationals in a recent raid in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence officials told WorldNetDaily.
The two young men, who identified themselves as Iraqi citizens, were brought to the U.S. air base in Bagram for questioning, the officials said.
A third fighter, who identified himself as a Russian national, also was captured early last week in the raid on an al-Qaida stronghold, the sources said. He’s being detained at Bagram, as well.
U.S. interrogators are attempting to confirm the nationalities of the detainees. Al-Qaida operatives in U.S. custody have been traced back to more than 40 countries.
But so far none has come from Iraq or Russia.
The interrogation of the Iraqis will be intense, said one official. The U.S. will want to know if they defected or joined up with al-Qaida under the auspices of the regime in Baghdad.
“Interrogators will be treating this with extra special care,” said the official.
The Bush administration has been trying to tie Baghdad closer to al-Qaida as it builds a case for taking out Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the next front in the war on terrorism.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that several al-Qaida detainees have said that Iraq helped train al-Qaida in chemical-weapons development. She also said al-Qaida operatives have found refuge in Baghdad.
A spokesman for the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations said the Iraqi government has received no information about the detainees captured in Afghanistan.
A State Department official said the incident has not risen to the diplomatic level.
“It was an intelligence operation,” said State spokesman Greg Sullivan. “And we don’t normally comment on intelligence operations.”
A Pentagon spokesman said he could not discuss specifics about any of the detainees.
Phone calls to the Russian Embassy, as well as the White House, were not immediately returned.