Sun, Sep 08, 2002 - Page 1 News List

US ignored Taliban warning of Sept. 11 attacks: paper

AFP , LONDON

The US and the UN ignored warnings from a secret Taliban emissary weeks before Sept. 11 last year that Osama bin Laden was planning a huge attack on the US, a British daily reported yesterday.

The warnings were delivered by an aide of Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban Foreign Minister at the time, who was known to be unhappy with foreign militants in Afghanistan such as bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, The Independent newspaper said.

Muttawakil, now reportedly in American custody, believed the Taliban regime's protection of bin Laden and the other militants would lead to the destruction of Afghanistan by the US military, the newspaper said, quoting the aide.

The foreign minister then ordered his official to alert the US and the UN about what was going to happen.

But in a massive failure of intelligence, the message was disregarded because of what sources described as "warning fatigue," the British daily said.

Muttawakil's aide, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Independent that the minister learnt in July last year that bin Laden was planning a "huge attack" on targets inside the US.

Muttawakil found out about the coming attacks from the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yildash, the British paper said.

The organization was one of the fundamentalist groups that had found refuge on Afghan soil, lending fighters for the Taliban regime's war on the Northern Alliance opposition, and had good relations with al-Qaeda.

The aide went first to the Americans, traveling across the border to meet the US consul general in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar, in the third week of July last year.

The Afghan aide did not, however, reveal that the warning was from Muttawakil, rather than his own message, a factor that might have led the Americans to downgrade it, The Independent said.

When Muttawakil's emissary returned to Kabul, the foreign minister told him to see UN officials.

He took the warning to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the UN. The officials heard him out, but did not report the secret Taliban warning to UN headquarters, the paper reported.

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