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Rumsfeld : Still Don't Know How Many Enemy Dead in Operation Anaconda - 2002-03-15


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it is still not known how many al-Qaida and Taleban fighters were killed in the latest U-S operation in the Shah-e-Kot valley in eastern Afghanistan.

He told a briefing in Washington there is no quick way for the Allied forces to know how many fighters fled or died in the caves. Some of the caves, he said, are still inaccessible because of landmines and other booby traps. He also noted that traditionally Afghans bury their dead immediately, making an accurate body count impossible.

He made the remarks as U-S and Canadian forces continued their search for any al-Qaida and Taleban fighters who may still be hiding in the Shah-e-Kot mountain caves and bunkers.

Military officials said allied troops killed three al-Qaida fighters in an intense battle Thursday, which erupted within hours of launching the mission, code-named "Operation Harpoon.

Meanwhile, U-S military officials say Afghan troops have found Egyptians, Sudanese and Indonesians among the 20 dead Taleban and al-Qaida fighters discovered in caves near the Pakistani border.

The commander of U-S forces on the ground, General Frank Hagenbeck, says he believes Chechens, Uzbeks and other foreigners were also among the fighters in the valley.

U-S officials say al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and former Taleban ruler Mullah Omar were not among those killed, but that U-S military and intelligence continue to track down leads about their whereabouts.

In another development, a U-S congressional committee is pushing for an extra one-billion dollars in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan.

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