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New Afghan Clashes Erupt - 2002-05-18


Coalition troops in eastern Afghanistan's rugged mountains have launched a new military operation against what they call a "substantial force" of suspected Taleban and al-Qaida fighters.

Officials from the British-led force say "Operation Condor" was mounted Friday after an Australian patrol came under fire Thursday in Paktia province.

A British spokesman (Brigadier Roger Lane) says an unspecified number of enemy fighters were killed in the initial clash, while the one-thousand coalition troops suffered no casualties.

U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refuses to discuss details of the operation. But he says it is similar to earlier sweeps against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan and there will more like it in the future.

Earlier this week, British-led coalition forces completed a two-week operation in eastern Afghanistan aimed at destroying al-Qaida's ability to mount future terrorist attacks. Troops called the operation a success, although no enemy fighters were encountered during the mission.

Coalition forces have yet to find al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, or Taleban leader Mullah Omar. Mr. Rumsfeld says he has no knowledge about their whereabouts, and says the many tips about their location have not proved to be solid.

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