01/11/2002

N.Y. Cops to Tackle Taliban

By JOHN MARZULLI, New York Daily News Police Bureau Chief

The NYPD is flying detectives to Afghanistan to interrogate Taliban prisoners, the Daily News has learned.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed yesterday that a "small number" of detectives assigned to the Joint Terrorist Task Force is being sent to the war zone.

Kelly declined to discuss specifics of where or how the detectives will be used.

"Obviously there's always a concern for our officers' safety, but I think the situation there is under control," Kelly told The News.

It is not the first time NYPD detectives assigned to the task force have gone overseas on anti-terrorist duty.

After the deadly October 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole — also believed to be the work of terrorist kingpin Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network — detectives joined FBI agents in Yemen to gather information.

Thomas Scotto, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, called the detectives "patriots."

"I'm very proud of them, and I'm sure they will do a great job," he said.

The assignment is considered so sensitive that the union wasn't informed of the unusual posting.

"It is a dangerous assignment," Scotto said after learning of the assignment from The News. "I am concerned that if anything happens to them, it should have been discussed with the union."

Chief of Detectives William Allee declined comment yesterday.

More than 300 Taliban prisoners are being held in Afghanistan and aboard the amphibious assault ship Bataan in the Arabian Sea. They are being grilled for information about terrorist operations.

In November, CIA officer Johnny (Mike) Spann was killed during a violent prison uprising in Mazar-i-Sharif, where he was interrogating Taliban prisoners.

U.S. forces still encounter hostile enemy fire in the region as they press the hunt for Bin Laden, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and pockets of the Al Qaeda fighters.

The fatal ambush shooting last week of Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman was the first American combat death since the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

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