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US Intel: Top al-Qaida Official Believed Killed in Afghan Air Raid - 2001-11-16


U-S intelligence officials say there are credible reports a top member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network was killed earlier this week during air raids in Afghanistan.

The reports say Mohammed Atef, the al-Qaida military commander, was probably hit during U-S air strikes south of Kabul. There were no further details. U-S intelligence sources say Mohammed Atef was Osama bin Laden's chief aide and likely successor as head of al-Qaida. U-S officials also accuse the former Egyptian police officer of involvement in planning the September 11th attacks on the United States and have indicted him in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U-S embassies in east Africa.

Meanwhile, U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says hundreds of U-S Special Forces troops are taking part in ground operations in southern Afghanistan to capture or kill other al-Qaida members and their Taleban sponsors. A Pentagon spokesman says U-S bombing raids against Taleban military positions in Afghanistan will continue, despite the beginning of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press says overnight air strikes in the southern city of Kandahar killed 11 civilians and destroyed the Taleban foreign ministry and a mosque, but the report was not independently confirmed. Opposition ground troops also are attacking Kunduz, the last remaining Taleban stronghold in northern Afghanistan. Northern Alliance forces are said to be in combat with several thousand Pakistanis and Arabs loyal to fugitive terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, Islamabad has dismissed an Iranian radio report saying Osama bin Laden and Taleban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar have fled into northwest Pakistan. A Pakistani government spokesman said the military is committed to keeping Taleban and al-Qaida leaders on the Afghan side of the border.

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