Sunday, March 04, 2007

Afghanistan: US forces attack suspected al Qaeda hideout

For the past two days, U.S. and NATO forces have been conducting a major attack against a compound in a remote area of Eastern Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden or another senior al Qaeda leader may be hiding, ABC News has learned.
According to eyewitnesses and local reporters in Kunar province, Coalition forces launched a fierce attack on a small enclave in the village of Mandaghel, approximately 17 miles from the border with Pakistan, on Friday afternoon. Warplanes pounded the positions ; U.S. special forces and Afghan National Army soldiers moved in shortly afterwards.

The assault appeared to meet stiff resistance from militants at the compound. Heavy artillery and gunfire could be heard for hours, local witnesses said . A handful of civilians were reportedly wounded in the strike. Though sealed off from outside access, the area now appears to be under coalition control.

U.S. officials declined to identify who the operation was targeting, but indicated they were after a "High Value Target" (HVT) . Official sources would not rule out that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden himself was the intended target. Afghan officials said the target could be another senior ranking al Qaeda leader.

The Coalition, which generally refuses to discuss ongoing operations, declined to make an official comment.

According to a local official, the compound under attack belongs to an Islamic militant and suspected drug trafficker named Haji Aminullah. The area of Kunar province is known as a stronghold of Wahabbists—followers of the strict sect of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, according to Barnett Rubin, senior fellow at New York University. Since the 1980's, the area has been a haven for Arab militants, including Osama bin Laden.

The Blotter


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