- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan Two Afghans died in clashes between the country's army and a renegade warlord, and an Arab possibly linked to al Qaeda was arrested, an army commander said yesterday.
A U.S. jet dropped a bomb to stop to the fighting.
Elsewhere, U.S. officials said a rocket exploded about two miles from a U.S. special forces safe house yesterday in Paktia province, a main area of activity in the search for Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts in southeastern Afghanistan.
Fighters from the Afghan army and forces with Noor Mohammed, a local warlord, skirmished Thursday in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, said the main Afghan army commander in the province, Hazrat Ali.
He said two persons were killed, including the warlord's brother, and six persons wounded in the clashes 40 miles west of Jalalabad.
A U.S. military spokesman, Col. Roger King, said U.S. special forces dropped a 500-pound bomb in an uninhabited area to stop the fighting.
Commander Ali said there was "al Qaeda activity" in the area and that one Arab was arrested during the fighting.
The commander blamed Mr. Mohammed for starting the fighting. But sources in Jalalabad, the capital of the Nangarhar province, said the clash followed an attempt by the commander to disarm local residents. They resisted, and a gun battle broke out.
Coalition forces, meanwhile, detained a man they thought was a biological-weapons smuggler, but lab tests show the materials in his possession contained neither chemical nor biological agents, Col. King said.
Forces detained the man July 10 in the village of Hesarak after intelligence sources said he had suspected ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, Col. King said. Two others were also detained.
Special forces took "block-shaped and pastelike materials from the house that the [suspected] smuggler was taken from," he said. Tests in the Afghan capital, Kabul, detected the possible presence of the toxic biological agent ricin.
But further tests in the United States determined the materials did not contain any biological or chemical agents. When asked whether the found materials could have been drugs or materials to process drugs, Col. King said, "possibly."
Equipped with gas masks and gloves, U.S. forces swooped into the village for a second time on Tuesday and found more of the materials, plus "documents deemed to have intelligence value," Col. King said.
Some people in the village, which is 60 miles south of Kabul, complained the three men detained July 10 were not guilty of anything and had no links to al Qaeda or the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai filled one of the Cabinet posts left empty when top official Abdul Qadir was slain earlier this month. Abdullah Ali, deputy of Kabul's City Construction Ministry, was picked to take over as minister of public works, one of three positions Mr. Qadir held.
Mr. Qadir's other posts vice president and governor of the eastern Nangarhar province have not yet been filled, said government spokesman Said Fazel Akbar.
Mr. Qadir was gunned down July 6 outside his office by two men who fled in a white vehicle. He was the second government minister killed in Kabul in six months.

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