Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Qaeda escapee" says will take fight to US soil

"Qaeda escapee" says will take fight to US soil

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Web site often used by militants posted a video tape on Monday in which a purported al Qaeda escapee from a U.S. airbase in Afghanistan vowed to fight Americans in Iraq and the United States.

The man, identified as Faruq al-Iraqi, said he was one of four al Qaeda members who escaped from the base in July. A U.S. defense official said in November four Qaeda members, including the group's most senior operative in southeast Asia, Omar al-Faruq, escaped from Bagram military prison in July.

"I say to the Americans ... we will fight them ... in Iraq and in their country," the man said on the tape recorded late in 2005 and posted on the Web site.

"They (Americans) will not be able to stop the march of Jihad ... with their checkpoints, forces, machinery, advanced equipment. No matter how strong or equipped they are they will not defeat the Almighty."

Sitting in a jungle wearing an ammunition belt, the man told the story of an "easy" escape from the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan where he was held after his arrest in Indonesia.

"We did not think it was this easy, to leave like this. We thought there were military positions...," said Iraqi, who said he escaped with three other Qaeda members he identified with aliases Abou Nasser, Abou Yehya and Abdullah al-Shami.

The tape showed what purported to be all four of them.

U.S. intelligence officials say Faruq, a Kuwaiti, was captured in Indonesia in 2002 and handed to U.S. custody.

The tape's authenticity could not be verified.

The U.S. military has said prison security procedures were bolstered immediately after the breakout of the four men, who were still at large.

The Bagram detention center has housed hundreds of suspects since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to give up bin Laden after the September 11 attacks on the United States.