- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

An American soldier died of wounds received two weeks ago while hunting for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher James Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., was among five U.S. soldiers injured in an ambush on July 27 in the east of Afghanistan. He died Wednesday, a Department of Defense statement said.

About 50 U.S. soldiers and allied Afghan militia were trying to confirm intelligence about an enemy operative in the area when they came under small-arms fire, commanders said at the time. Special Forces and conventional troops were flown to the fight after the ambush, putting a total of about 100 troops on the ground.

Two Afghan militiamen also had been killed in the 4 ½-hour gunbattle in eastern Afghanistan during a search for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters believed holed up in the lawless region.

Sgt. Speer had been evacuated to Germany for medical care. The other four soldiers' injuries were not life-threatening and they were treated at the U.S. base at Bagram, Afghanistan.

At least three of those who opened fire on the U.S. and Afghan troops from a mud-brick compound also were killed, officials said.

The region is regarded as one of the most insecure areas of Afghanistan. Forces of the U.S.-led coalition repeatedly have conducted operations there.

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