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Media Reports Say U-S Missile Killed Top al-Qaida - 2002-02-07


U-S media reports say a missile fired earlier this week from a pilot-less, remote-controlled U-S aircraft hit a group of suspected senior al-Qaida leaders meeting in eastern Afghanistan.

The reports cite un-identified U-S officials as saying a "Predator" drone, operated by the (U-S) Central Intelligence Agency (C-I-A), launched the "Hellfire" missile Monday near the Zawar Khili cave complex - not far from the Pakistani border.

The C-I-A has declined to comment on the reports.

Media accounts say it is not clear how many people may have been killed, but that at least one senior al-Qaida official died in the attack. The missile was reportedly fired after the drone detected a convoy of vehicles accompanied by armed guards, and then three men in white robes getting out of the cars.

The reports say bad weather prevented U-S forces on the ground from launching a mission to identify the dead.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press says the attack killed three young Afghans -- all in early twenties. The report quotes local elders as saying the youths were not al-Qaida members.

According one U-S report (C-B-S), Osama bin Laden and his top associates are believed to have been hiding in the region where the missile attack was reported since escaping U-S bombing raids on the Tora Bora cave complex two months ago.

In another development, the U-S military Wednesday resumed flights carrying al-Qaida and Taleban detainees from Afghanistan to the detention facility at the U-S naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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