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Coalition Troops Continue - 2002-05-19


Hundreds of coalition troops in southeastern Afghanistan are pressing on with their search for al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts.

The British-led "Operation Condor" is focused on Khost and Paktia provinces, where senior officials believe a "substantial force" of Taleban and al-Qaida fighters are hiding.

A U-S Army spokesman (Major Brian Hilferty) says American warplanes killed 10 suspected militants early Friday on an "uninhabited ridge" where attackers had pursued and pinned down Australian special forces teams.

But Afghan officials say the Australian team accidentally came upon a firefight between two tribes and there were no al-Qaida or Taleban fighters on the ridge.

The U-S spokesman also denied reports from the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press that the bombing hit a village in Khost after a wedding party fired shots in the air in celebration.

Meanwhile, police in neighboring Pakistan say an unmanned U-S "Predator" reconnaissance plane crashed early Saturday while on a routine mission in the southwestern part of the country. The cause of the crash is under investigation. There was no indication hostile fire was involved. U-S officials did not immediately comment on the incident.

The Predator took off from a military base used by American troops in Jacobabad, about 300 kilometers east of the Afghan border. Several unmanned drones have crashed since U-S forces began using the aircraft in the fight against terrorists in Afghanistan.

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