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U.S. Troops, Airstrip Come Under Fire in Afghanistan

April 15, 2002|From Associated Press

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — After weeks of no reported combat with Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, American-led forces clashed with "terrorists," and several of the enemy were believed killed, the U.S. command said Sunday.

In a separate incident, rockets were fired at a U.S.-controlled airstrip in southeastern Afghanistan, a stark reminder that the country's struggle to overcome 23 years of war is far from over.

In the clash Saturday, no casualties were reported among U.S. Special Forces troops or their Afghan allies. The skirmish erupted after a joint patrol came under fire, said Army Maj. Bryan Hilferty, U.S. military spokesman. He said troops called in air support from an AC-130 gunship. He would not say where the clash took place.

Hilferty said the troops could not confirm the death toll among the attackers, but he said the patrol believed that it had "killed several terrorists" because "the AC-130 saw them, fired, and then didn't see them anymore."

The second attack took place outside the eastern city of Khowst, near the Pakistani border. The region is believed to have pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban resistance.

Accounts of what happened varied. A local leader contacted by satellite phone said unidentified attackers fired three rockets at an airstrip there around midnight. A building was hit, injuring three Afghans, according to Fazal Mir.

However, Tribal Affairs Minister Amunalah Zadran said that two missiles exploded about four miles from the airport and that no one was hurt.

No American troops were at the base at the time, U.S. officials said.

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