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SLUG: 2-287705 Afghan/Pentagon (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/18/02

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE= AFGHAN/PENTAGON (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-287705

BYLINE=ALEX BELIDA

DATELINE=PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: U-S defense officials say Operation Anaconda in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan is over -- and a "success." But as V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida reports from the Pentagon, the hard work of tracking down al-Qaida terrorists goes on.

TEXT: Some 500 coalition troops are still sweeping through the area south of Gardez, searching caves and tracking down any al-Qaida or Taleban fighters remaining in the Operation Anaconda battle area.

But the latest offensive military actions have occurred outside that zone. In one incident, U-S forces intercepted a convoy of three vehicles carrying suspected al-Qaida terrorists fleeing the area. Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa explains what happened.

///ROSA ACTUALITY///

Our forces attempted to stop and detain the individuals in the vehicles. The enemy resisted and a firefight ensued. Sixteen were killed, one was wounded and another one was detained without injuries. Numerous weapons, ammunitions, rocket-propelled grenades were found in these vehicles. There were no U-S casualties in this operation.

///END ACTUALITY///

General Rosa says the other operation took place near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. He says 31 persons were detained in a raid on a suspicious compound.

///ROSA ACTUALITY///

Weapons and a large amount of ammunition were also discovered in this compound.

///END ACTUALITY///

Meanwhile, General Rosa says the 600 U-S troops helping Philippine soldiers battle Abu Sayyaf terrorists suspected of links with al-Qaida have also been busy. But he stresses there is no U-S involvement in combat operations.

///ROSA ACTUALITY///

We evacuated three Filipino members from Basilan Island to Zamboanga after they were wounded in a firefight with Abu Sayyaf. This was strictly a medevac (medical evacuation) operation and U-S forces were not involved in any fighting nor did they come under fire during the rescue effort.

///END ACTUALITY///

In yet another development, the Pentagon says it is considering cutbacks in the combat air patrols flown over U-S cities since last September's terrorist attacks.

///REST OPTIONAL///

Pentagon chief spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says no final decisions have yet been made but indicates there will be a flexible mixture of actual patrols and so-called strip alerts where fighters stand ready to take off.

///CLARKE ACTUALITY///

What we are looking at is a different mix of combat air patrols, strip alerts, those sorts of things that will change and adapt as the circumstances change and adapt.

///END ACTUALITY///

Military officials say the patrols, including round-the-clock flights over New York and Washington, have put an enormous strain on aircraft and their crews.

(Signed)

NEB/BEL/SAB



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