American Forces Press Service

Second Strike Hits Zawar Kili Compound; 'Aggressive' Search On for Bin Laden, Omar

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2002 - U.S. B-52 and B-1 bombers, F-18 fighters and AC-130 gunships struck a suspected Al Qaeda regrouping point -- the Zawar Kili compound southwest of Khowst -- for the second time in two days Jan. 4.

U.S. aircraft struck the Al Qaeda terrorist group compound because military officials observed "some activity" at the site. Historically the compound is known as a place the Al Qaeda would go to regroup. U.S. Central Command officials ordered the restrike after they observed continued activity, said Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke. No battle damage assessment was yet available, she added.

U.S. and coalition forces had previously attacked the compound in November. It was also struck by U.S. cruise missiles in 1998 following terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Coalition and anti-Taliban forces continue searching for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar, Clarke told reporters. "We're certainly trying to get them," she stressed. "We're using all sorts of resources to try to make that happen - working with the interim government, working with the anti-Taliban forces, people on the ground."

Asked if U.S. officials have information on Omar's whereabouts, Clarke repeated comments Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had made at a news briefing yesterday. "If we have information about where we think he might be, it would be foolish to say we think he's there, because then he probably would not be there," she said.

At present, she added, U.S. officials "do not know where Omar is. We will continue to use every resource we have and continue to aggressively take action to try to get him, UBL (Bin Laden) and the other senior Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership."

U.S. and anti-Taliban forces are focusing their efforts on the Tora Bora and Kandahar region in Afghanistan. There were 126 sorties yesterday, but the amount of ordnance dropped was unavailable, Clarke said.

Afghanistan "is still an extraordinarily dangerous place and this is an extraordinarily dangerous mission," Clarke stressed. There continue to be pockets of resistance, land mines, booby traps, she said.

Commando Solo broadcasts continued and aircraft made leaflet drops in both Tora Bora and Kandahar. The leaflets have proven to be effective in surfacing intelligence information, Clarke said.

Since September 11, she pointed out, the United States has increased and improved intelligence gathering and surveillance around the world to prevent further attacks. Well before September 11, she said, the defense secretary often spoke about the need to improve and strengthen U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities.

U.S. officials now have control of 273 detainees, including 250 in Kandahar, 14 in Bagram, eight aboard the USS Bataan and one in Mazar-e Sharif, she said. Defense officials continue working on how military tribunals will be conducted and other details regarding the detainees.