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U.S. BID TO SNATCH ANNETTA; Troops storm hideouts.

Byline: DAMIEN LANE

US Army snatch squads launched a major search and rescue operation yesterday in a bid to free Ulster-born Taliban hostage Annetta Flanigan.

The troops - backed by Afghan forces - blasted their way into compounds in Kabul yesterday following a tip-off.

They made 12 arrests but failed to find the 35-year-old election expert from Richhill, Co Armagh, or her two UN colleagues.

And the operation brought a warning from their captors that they would not tolerate dirty tricks while negotiations continued.

Annetta, Kosovan Shqipe Hebibi and Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan, have now been held for 27 days.

Among those detained in the pre-dawn raids was Dr Muneer Ahmad Musamim, whose wife Zakia said he worked for the UN, and his 17-year-old son.

Zakia insisted none of them knew anything of the hostages and added that nobody was injured in the raid.

Lieutenant-General David Barno, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, confirmed his soldiers took part in an operation but declined to give details.

After the raid Mullah Sabir Momin of the Army of Muslims, a Taliban splinter faction believed to be holding the hostages, warned the Afghan Government would be responsible for the fate of the trio.

In a telephone message he said: "The Government is trying to keep us busy with negotiations while it searches for the hostages. It should not waste this chance or deceive us otherwise the hostages will lose."

BRITISH security services have prevented September 11-style attacks on London's Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf, it was claimed last night.

Plans to crash planes on the two targets are among four or five al-Qaeda strikes that security chiefs believe they have stopped.

A senior authoritative source told ITV News training programmes for suicide pilots have been disrupted.

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HELD: Annetta
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2004
Words:295
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