Sami Yousafzai

Stories by Sami Yousafzai

  • How Al Qaeda Slipped Away

    The Afghan foot patrol was so hot on the trail of fleeing Qaeda troops that the pursuers could literally smell blood. Across the high passes of the Tora Bora range they raced, with blankets drawn over their shoulders and their turbans wrapped around their faces against the freezing December wind. They came upon a man's severed leg, its stump still oozing blood. The owner couldn't have gotten far. Ahead was a high intermontane valley, and beyond it an even more formidable barrier, the Spin Ghar range--the White Mountains. The fugitives were as good as dead or captured. American B-52s and attack helicopters were plastering the hillsides; some 1,500 pro-Western Afghans had joined the chase, and on the far side of the White Mountains the Pakistanis had ostensibly closed the border.The pursuit team, under the command of the pro-U.S. warlord Hazrat Ali, finally outran its quarry. In a remote valley strewn with discarded blankets and empty ammo clips, Ali's men fought a three-hour fire...
  • The One That Got Away

    U.S. officials have mostly kept mum on the names of specific prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They will say only that there are 384 men from at least 33 countries being held, including more than 100 Saudis, roughly 70 Yemenis, at least 25 Pakistanis, and a sprinkling of European nationals--nearly all of Arab ancestry. But in early May, Washington acknowledged that it was willing to release one prisoner: a 25-year-old Afghan held for four months at Camp X-ray. It turns out that the man was not actually a terrorist, but a schizophrenic sufferer. The Pentagon promptly shipped the Mazar-e-Sharif native off to a hospital in Kabul armed with a six-month supply of medication, then closed the curtain on any further disclosures. It wouldn't say why the ethnic Uzbek was detained in the first place, why it took so long to diagnose his schizophrenia, or what it had learned from others being held.NEWSWEEK's Sami Yousafzai recently tracked down the former prisoner, Abdul Razeq, and spoke with...
  • 'We Didn't Have A Chance To Fight Back'

    The battle now raging in Paktia province seems to have begun unexpectedly. Laying in Kabul's 400-bed military hospital, Abdul Saboor, 28, is nursing shrapnel wounds in his left leg as a result. At 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, he says, he was one of a group of approximately 400 Afghan soldiers, broken up into two groups--one for attack and one for securing the perimeter--approaching the snowy peaks of Shahikot, roughly 18 miles southwest of Gardez, in Soviet GAZ trucks.Commander Noorullah, who escorted the Afghan wounded to Kabul, says American troops accompanied them in six jeeps. "We had no information about the attack," says Saboor. "The Americans only told us that we were going to be involved in a big military operation." As they passed through a narrow valley with Afghan troops in the lead, the convoy came under fire from heavy machine guns and 82 millimeter mortar rounds. "We didn't even see the enemy and didn't have a chance to fight back," Saboor says. One rocket landed in...
  • The View From Tora Bora

    Even as the Saudi fighter spoke, American B-52s were bombing the last Qaeda stronghold of Tora Bora. Afghan fighters had flushed the Qaeda guerrillas out of two main caves and into the Agam and Wazir valleys, where they were seemingly trapped. Anti-Qaeda Afghans blocked the northern end of the canyons, and to the south, treacherous mountain passes would soon be covered with fresh snow. Cluster bombs and 15,000-pound Daisy Cutters had flattened entire hillsides into a moonscape of scorched tree trunks. But Abu Bakr Himad Mohammed, a Qaeda warrior, kept up a brave face. He enjoyed using "a rock for a pillow," he told a NEWSWEEK reporter by walkie-talkie, and he was ready to die a martyr. But what about Osama bin Laden? "I don't know where he is," said the Saudi, "but he's somewhere far away. The Americans cannot possibly catch Osama."Late last week high-level Americans still believed that bin Laden was in the area of Tora Bora. But nobody was certain, and the obvious worry was that...