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Rumsfeld: al-Qaida Forces Will Fight to the End - 2002-03-08


U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he believes the al-Qaida and Taleban forces fighting U-S troops in the snowy peaks of eastern Afghanistan for the past week are the type who will fight to the end.

He told C-N-N in an interview that so far none of those fighters have either tried to flee or surrender. He also said snow storms in the mountains have temporarily reduced the intensity of the fighting.

Earlier, an American military spokesman in Afghanistan said U-S-led troops killed a large number of those fighters in fierce combat overnight in freezing conditions in eastern Afghanistan.

The spokesman, Colonel Joe Smith, described the fighting early today (Friday) as heavy and said there were what he called "lots of al-Qaida casualties." He did not give specific numbers, or report any casualties on the U-S side.

Afghan troops allied with American forces are joining the U-S - led offensive against al-Qaida and Taleban fighters, which has been dubbed "Operation Anaconda."

Afghanistan's interim government has sent one-thousand troops under veteran commander Gul Haider, as the Kabul administration's commitment to the U-S - led military campaign. The extra manpower apparently is aimed at smashing fiercer-than-expected resistance.

The U-S-led force consists of one-thousand American troops, one thousand U-S - trained Afghans, and 200 commandos from other Western countries. Estimates of the opposing al-Qaida force range from several hundred to a few thousand.

In another development, an F-14 Navy attack plane crashed Friday in the North Arabian Sea while returning to the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis from a support mission in Afghanistan. Both crewmen were rescued. The Navy said neither man was seriously injured. An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the crash.

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