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cantwealljustgetalong Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-03 11:16 PM
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Iran confirms holding top al-Qaida operatives...
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran announced Wednesday it was holding senior members of the al-Qaida terror network and will hunt down any others on its soil, while the United States demanded it turn over any prisoners to face justice.

Tehran's announcement came just days after President Bush accused it of harboring terrorists. Iran's government has long said al-Qaida operatives are in its prisons, but this was the first word that some prisoners held high positions in Osama bin Laden's terror network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks and for suicide bombings this year at Western housing complexes in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

''A large number of small- and big-time elements of al-Qaida are in our custody,'' Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi told reporters.

He did not identify any of the detainees or comment on media reports that Iran holds al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, the group's spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith, or its security chief Saif al-Adil.

The Bush administration said it could not confirm Yunesi's comments and questioned whether al-Qaida members in Iran were in prison or being harbored by the government.

Still, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said ''the statements would appear to confirm what we and others believe to be a significant al-Qaida presence in Iran to include members of its senior membership.''

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