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GIs Sift Through Afghan Locales

War: A suspected Al Qaeda training camp is among sites. Searchers also blow up caves.

June 12, 2002|From Associated Press

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — U.S. troops searched a suspected Al Qaeda training camp and blew up caves where weapons were found in southeastern Afghanistan, a U.S. military spokesman said Tuesday.

The soldiers discovered a stash of munitions and weapons, including four boxes of heavy machine-gun ammunition and three rocket-propelled grenades, Col. Roger King told reporters at Bagram air base north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

No documents were found in the caves or at the suspected training site near Suleiman Khel, about 10 miles from the Pakistani border, during the Monday search, King said. Several caves were then sealed using explosives, he said.

The troops returned to the U.S. base at the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday after the operation, carried out amid temperatures of more than 120 degrees. U.S. officials have said there are a number of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban sites near the Pakistani border that they are searching for intelligence or weapons.

Most Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters are thought to have either taken refuge in neighboring Pakistan or gone into hiding in small numbers in eastern Afghanistan.

About 1,000 U.S. troops, mostly Special Forces, searching in the border region for months have found weapons caches but few fighters.

King said the new finds did not necessarily suggest that additional terrorists or Taliban members were in the area. The weapons could have been "placed there a while ago," he said.

Meanwhile, France announced that it will pull back its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and nuclear submarine Saphir from the Arabian Sea after the Afghan loya jirga tribal assembly, now underway in Kabul.

Two French frigates will remain in the region, and France will keep about 500 soldiers in an international peacekeeping force in Kabul for an additional six months, the government said.

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