March 22 —
BAGRAM, Afghanistan U.S. troops seized a large cache of weapons,
including hundreds of mortars, rockets and land mines, and detained
four suspects on Saturday during a sweep in southern Afghanistan, an
The cache was found inside several buildings in a walled compound
near the southern Sami Ghar mountains, where hundreds of U.S.-led
troops are hunting for terror suspects in a broad new operation,
said Lt. Col. Michael Shields, a senior operations officer of the
coalition task force.
"To put it in perspective, we're still counting," Shields said,
calling it the largest find in months. "In recent history, the size
of this is significant."
The seizure came as suspected Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami renegades
killed three Afghan soldiers at a post elsewhere in the southern
The soldiers were trudging through the muddy, rugged terrain to
pursue intelligence about other suspected weapons caches in nearby
caves and mountains, he said.
The troops also arrested two suspected rebels near the weapons
cache, Shields said, though he declined to provide further
The cache included hundreds of rocket-propelled grenade launchers
and rounds, high-caliber machine guns, mortar rounds, anti-tank and
anti-personnel mines and "too much ammunition of all caliber to
count currently," Shields said.
Operation Valiant Strike the latest U.S. offensive in the war on
terror in Afghanistan is being conducted in villages and caves in
southern Kandahar province, Shields said.
The operation began Thursday as an intensified search for
Taliban, al-Qaida and loyalists of renegade rebel leader Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar, whom U.S. authorities have branded a terrorist.
No exchanges of fire or coalition injuries have been reported in
the operation, Army officials said.
Troops also apprehended two other suspected rebels and seized a
much smaller cache of ammunition and light machine guns on Friday,
Army spokesman Col. Roger King said earlier.
Shields said that smaller cache included documents that referred
to regional leaders of rebel forces. He declined to give further
In the attack Saturday, gunmen opened fire on an Afghan army post
in the southern province of Kandahar, killing three Afghan soldiers,
a senior Afghan government official said.
The gunmen traded fire with soldiers in the Wath army post, about
20 miles south of Spinboldak, for about an hour, then fled, said
Fazaluddin Agha, the head of administration in Spinboldak district,
near the border with Pakistan. He said they were believed to be from
the former Taliban regime or with the radical Muslim group
Separately, Afghan soldiers on the U.S.-led sweep seized bombs,
guns and ammunition and arrested 13 people said to be linked to the
former Taliban regime, Abdul Raziq, police chief of Spinboldak
district, where part of the search was conducted.
Authorities were questioning the men five of whom admitted having
links with the Taliban, he said.
"They have made confessions and we have got proof" of their
connection to the Taliban, according to Raziq, adding papers in the
men's possession proved the links. He would not provide any
"We have got information about other friends of these people and
are looking to arrest them," Raziq added. He said U.S. forces and
about 100 Afghan troops were patrolling the border areas with
Pakistan in Spinboldak for Taliban remnants.
About 600 ground troops began Valiant Strike Thursday about 60
miles east of the city of Kandahar, King said. Romanian infantry
also were taking part. Apache attack helicopters and up to 400
support personnel backed the ground forces.
"The whole idea is never to let the enemy rest long enough to
reorganize, regroup, recruit or retrain," King said.
|A U.S. Army personnel shows part
of cache of weapons and ammunition recovered during "Operation
Valiant Strike" in Sami Ghar Mountain Range, southeast of
Kandahar, Afghanistan, Saturday March 22, 2003. The operation
by coalition forces, the latest U.S. offensive in the war on
terror in Afghanistan, continues in the villages and caves in
southern Kandahar province(AP Photo/ U.S. Army,
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