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Fact Team Investigating Oruzgan Province Air Operation

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2002 - A U.S.-coalition team today began investigating the incident surrounding a military air operation conducted in southern Afghanistan Sunday and Monday, senior Pentagon officials said here today.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Pentagon reporters that few facts are available since the investigation is just underway.

U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers and AC-130 gunships struck several ground targets, including anti-aircraft artillery sites that were engaging the aircraft over Oruzgan Province north of Kandahar, according to U.S. Central Command.

That mission, Rumsfeld said, was search and reconnaissance. And Pace noted that enemy forces in the area had been firing at coalition aircraft in recent weeks. U.S. and coalition aircraft have the right to return fire if fired upon, he said.

Pace reported that four injured young Afghans were brought to U.S. military unit operating in the vicinity of the air operation. The injured Afghans, he added, were then flown by U.S. helicopter to a hospital in Kandahar for treatment.

"We don't know how they were injured," Pace said to reporters.

A B-52 had dropped seven bombs during the operation, Pace said, noting that six bombs hit intended cave complex targets. He said the seventh bomb hit an intervening hillside, with no observed casualties.

An AC-130 involved in the operation had also fired at targets on the ground, Pace said.

Regarding reports of severe casualties among civilian Afghans around the area of the operation, Rumsfeld noted that it would be "a mistake for us to make judgment to what took place when we don't know."

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