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U-S Officials: Omar Might Have Been in Area of Controversial Airstrike - 2002-07-10


U-S defense officials say they believe fugitive Taleban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar may have been in the same area of central Afghanistan where a recent coalition operation was marred by civilian casualties.

The operation in Uruzgan province involved several hundred U-S and coalition troops, as well as Afghan forces, and resulted in the capture of at least five people.

The U-S defense officials did not identify the five, and would not say if the objective of the operation was the capture of Mullah Omar. But a Pentagon spokesman (Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold) said intelligence information suggested there were what he called "high value individuals" in the area.

Details about the operation have emerged only in the wake of a controversial incident in which Afghan officials said almost 50 civilians were killed in a U-S airstrike in Uruzgan.

The July first incident is under investigation, but U-S military officials say the airstrike was prompted by anti-aircraft fire aimed at the American planes.

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