U.S. looks for new targets

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. warplanes halted their fierce bombing of a mountain riddled with suspected terrorist dens on Tuesday as American Marines scoured the outskirts of their largest Afghan base for armed Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts.

U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., said the military was considering new targets in its hunt for die-hard supporters of bin Laden and his Taliban allies now that the camp had been eradicated.

An official said the Pentagon has intelligence indicating Taliban or al-Qaida – or their weapons – may be hidden at what he called a handful of places. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to name the places.

“We keep discovering additional caves and additional tunnels and additional caches of weapons and intelligence information. … Very, very sizable arsenals are being discovered,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters on Tuesday. “Tanks and artillery pieces and surface-to-air missiles and small arms and all kinds of things. They’ve been in the process of destroying a great deal of it in different locations.”

In the southern city of Kandahar, where U.S.-led coalition forces have established their major post, an active threat remained from remaining enemy fighters. Front-line troops believed their opponents were planning an attack.

U.S. Marine Capt. Dan Greenwood said patrols spotted seven men who appeared to be armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers heading toward an abandoned mud house outside the base perimeter around sunset Monday.

The same area was used by gunmen last week to launch an attack while a C-17 transport plane took off with the first batch of 20 prisoners heading for a high-security jail at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

To head off other attacks, the troops blew up a house and a network of tunnels, while bulldozers leveled other mud ruins. Foot patrols searched under cover of light-armored vehicles armed with machine guns.

Meanwhile, civilians in the Zawar area of eastern Afghanistan began returning to their homes, many of them blasted to rubble by a week of heavy U.S. airstrikes targeting a complex of mountain caves where terrorists were believed to be hiding.

Copyright ©2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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