- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) About 1,000 U.S. troops launched a raid on villages in southeastern Afghanistan last night, hunting for members of the al Qaeda terrorist network, military officials said.
Helicopters ferried troops from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division to the remote mountainous area as the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his network intensified.
U.S. military officials in Afghanistan only confirmed the operation was under way.
"I do not have anything to say about the Kandahar operation at this time," said Col. Roger King, U.S. army spokesman.
The troops left from their base in Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.
Radio transmissions had been detected coming from caves above the villages, said military officials in Washington .
It was the largest U.S. military operation in Afghanistan since Operation Anaconda just over a year ago. That eight-day battle involved hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters against thousands of American and allied Afghan troops.
There have been a series of raids on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border in the weeks since authorities captured al Qaeda's operations chief, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in Pakistan on March 1. Authorities have said Mohammed is giving information to U.S. interrogators and have said some of the subsequent arrests came as a result of Mohammed's capture.
Mohammed, a mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, is being interrogated by American officials at an undisclosed location.
The agents who captured him in a suburb of Islamabad found computers, mobile phones, documents and other evidence that could help lead to other al-Qaeda members.
There have been increased attacks on Afghan government posts in southern Afghanistan in recent weeks.
The authorities have blamed remnants of the Taliban, al Qaeda and loyalists of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a rebel commander labeled a terrorist by the United States.
Also today, a security official in Spinpoldak, Afghanistan, reported that Taliban soldiers ambushed a government post in southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing three Afghan soldiers.

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