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Allied Troops Continue Search for Enemy Fighters in - 2002-03-16


U-S military officials say allied troops have recovered weapons and sensitive documents during a search for al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts in eastern Afghanistan.

A military spokesman told reporters today (Saturday) at Bagram Air Base that coalition forces have found ammunition, mortars, rockets, food and clothing, along with diaries, manuals and letters in various languages in caves and other areas in the mountainous Shah-e-Kot valley region.

The search continues after a major U-S - led offensive earlier this month that ran into heavy resistance despite intense bombing raids by U-S warplanes. U-S officials report little combat in recent days. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says some caves remain inaccessible because of landmines and booby traps. He also says enemy fighters are known to bury their dead immediately, making an accurate body count impossible.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's former king has given his backing to expanding a British-led international peacekeeping force beyond the Kabul area. Mohammed Zahir Shah, speaking to reporters in Italy where he's lived since being ousted in a 1973 coup, said he would not normally support the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil. However, the 87-year-old former monarch says his country is undergoing exceptional times that call for exceptional measures. He also says he believes a majority of the Afghan people would welcome the international force.

But Secretary Rumsfeld says it is not likely the International Security Assistance Force will become a presence beyond the capital region. Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters (Friday) overall there is no serious security problem in Afghanistan. He also says there is little support among the international community for the idea.

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