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Afghanistan Operations Update (Jan. 29)

WASHINGTON --- Anti-Taliban Afghan forces supported by U.S. Special Forces yesterday killed six Al Qaeda members who had seized one of the wings of a hospital in Kandahar.

"Despite numerous attempts to negotiate their peaceful surrender, the six had been holed up in the hospital for almost two months," Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem said at the Pentagon. Several of the anti-Taliban forces were wounded in the operation, only one seriously, he noted. There were no U.S. forces injured.

"The Afghans led the raid and met headlong with the Al Qaeda members who obviously did not intend to surrender," Stufflebeem said. "They had threatened anyone who would hear them that they would kill themselves before being taken. The Afghan commander made the determination that the chances for a negotiated surrender were over, it is time to forcibly remove them."

Last week, U.S. forces raided compounds at Hazar Qadam that U.S. officials had determined was a meeting house for Al Qaeda or Taliban. The raid revealed a cache of arms and ammunition.

"Due to the intelligence reports generated by observing this facility," he said, "the commander decided to put a force on the ground to go into this compound, find out who was there, what they may have been up to and try to get some detainees. It was clearly not a case to bring in bombers and drop guided weapons and just level the place as has been done in some cases in the past."

When U.S. special operating forces breached the compound during the night raid, he said, "those forces were fired upon. In defending themselves, about 15 or 16 (Taliban or Al Qaeda) people were killed and 27 were taken into custody. Those individuals are now in U.S. detention and they are being interrogated."

During the course of the raid, Stufflebeem said, U.S. forces determined that the Taliban and Al Qaeda members there had people in detention. That could explain why some people were found bound and dead, he noted.

After all survivors were cleared from the buildings, Stufflebeem said, U.S. forces called in an AC-130 gunship to destroy the ammunition stored at the site.

Stufflebeem also provided more details on the collision of the attack submarine USS Greenville and the amphibious transport ship USS Ogden. The two ships collided while transferring two personnel from the submarine to the transport ship, he said.

In the maneuvering to bring the ships into proximity, he said, "they bumped -- "The starboard aft side of the USS Ogden, to the control side of the port side of the USS Greenville. The two aft ends touched."

There was no apparent damage to the submarine, he said, but there aren't qualified divers to make that assessment. The Greenville is under way on the surface to Diego Garcia as a precaution, he added.

The USS Ogden had a diesel leak in a fuel tank under the water line, but the ship is staying on station. "They have abilities to effect repairs to punctures of the skin. Their divers will determine whether they need any additional work done."


Afghan Forces Lead Hospital Raid, U.S. Ships Collide