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New U-S Military Operation in Afghanistan - 2002-09-10


U-S military officials say they have launched a large scale operation against al-Qaida terrorists in southeastern Afghanistan.

Major Richard Patterson -- a U-S spokesman at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul -- said Monday soldiers recently launched Operation Champion Strike in the Bermal Valley, not far from the border with Pakistan.

The spokesman said the operation is aimed at capturing or killing the remnants of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida fighters still in Afghanistan.

Major Patterson said U-S troops have so far been involved in one firefight with unknown attackers, with no casualties reported.

He also said soldiers have made several arrests and seized assault weapons, landmines and rockets. Major Patterson said he could give no other details because the operation is still underway.

Meanwhile, an Afghan warlord is fighting pro-government forces for control of the southeastern city of Khost.

Padshah Khan Zadran had warned his forces would strike back after troops loyal to the provincial governor (Mohammed Hakeem Taniwal) drove his men from the city center Sunday.

Fighting in Khost has so far killed 15 people and wounded 51 others.

The governor's forces reportedly attacked Mr. Zadran's men after state-run local radio mistakenly reported that U-S troops had arrested the warlord, who is wanted by the central government.

U-S military officials say they merely had a meeting with Mr. Zadran, asking him to remove roadblocks that slow down the hunt for stray al-Qaida and Taleban fighters.

A U-S military spokesman (Colonel Roger King) says U-S forces have no plans to take action against the Afghan warlord.

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