Tue, Dec 14, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Afghan insurgents launch mortar attack on US base

AP , KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Insurgents rained mortar rounds on a US base in Afghanistan, wounding three Afghan government soldiers, while US and Afghan officials yesterday announced the arrests of 14 suspected Taliban members.

Eleven mortar rounds fell near the base in southeastern Paktika province in the past 24 hours, a US military spokesman said.

The wounded soldiers from the new US-trained Afghan National Army were evacuated to a field hospital at a larger US base in neighboring Khost province and were in stable condition, Major Mark McCann said.

No US soldiers were reported hurt in the incident.

McCann said eight Taliban members were detained in a raid about a week ago in Char Cheno district of Central Uruzgan province after US forces received intelligence on their whereabouts.

Afghan troops seized another six suspected Taliban in the same province on Saturday, Defense Ministry spokesman General Zaher Mohammed Azimi said. Two were Taliban commanders called Mullah Ghulam Nahim and Abdul Qadir, he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is "definitely" in the region and will eventually be caught, even though US and Pakistani generals insist the trail is cold.

"It's very difficult to say where he is hiding. He cannot be away from this region. He's definitely in this region," Karzai told CNN's Late Edition.

"We will get him sooner or later, trust me on that," Karzai said.

Speculation on bin Laden's whereabouts has long focused on the mountains along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the al-Qaeda leader slipped away from Afghan and US forces three years ago.

Pakistan's army has mounted a series of bloody offensives against foreign fighters near the border this year, and US forces launched a winter-long operation last week against Taliban rebels on the Afghan side.

Pressed in the CNN interview, recorded on Sunday in the Afghan capital, Karzai declined to say whether bin Laden could be in Afghanistan, or in Pakistan. He said he knew of no suggestion the al-Qaeda leader could be in neighboring Iran.

"But we can definitely say he's around this region and he can't run forever," Karzai said.

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