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CENTCOM

NEWS RELEASE
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894

January 20, 2004
Release Number: 04-01-50


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Combined Forces Command Afghanistan Statement

KABUL, Afghanistan -- In Oruzgan province this weekend, coalition forces did engage five armed adult males who were fleeing from a known terrorist compound. Currently, there is no indication that civilians were killed in that incident.

Saturday evening coalition forces received intelligence that in a compound in Oruzgan province, in the Cahar Cineh Valley, there was a gathering of mid-level Taliban leadership.

Coalition Special Operations Forces and Afghan Militia Forces were sent to capture or kill the Taliban leaders at that compound. At approximately 8:00 p.m. on Saturday coalition forces observed 5 armed men leave the compound and move toward the coalition forces which have cordoned off the original compound. The commander on the ground verified that these individuals were indeed armed and moving toward a known coalition military unit.

At approximately 8:12 p.m. on Saturday an aircraft engaged those 5 individuals in a streambed.

Our forces moved toward the engagement site, but a large massing of armed personnel then came out of nearby compounds and gathered near the streambed. In order to avoid a larger engagement in the area of the compounds that might incur civilian casualties our forces halted and observed the activity from secure positions. Those people near the streambed recovered the bodies from the streambed.

The next day, coalition forces searched a number of compounds and the streambed without finding anything of significance.

In the process of 72 hours of operation in this area, coalition forces detained six individuals.

Typically, the Taliban are attempting to spread disinformation, propaganda, in order to discredit the coalition.

The facts:

--the only time of our firing was at 8:12 p.m. on Saturday, not 4 a.m. on Sunday.

--there were no helicopters in the area either at the time of the engagement on Saturday or at 4 a.m. on Sunday.

--at no time in the past 5 days did a US helicopter fire any ordnance of any kind in Oruzgan province.

--at no time during this operation were shots fired from any weapons system, ground or air, at any house compound or walled structure.

--coalition aircraft did not engage noncombatants. coalition forces clearly identified and engaged 5 armed adult males.

Coalition forces abide by stringent rules of engagement and continuously assess and refine those rules of engagement. In this case, as there are allegations of civilian casualties, we have reviewed the incident and there is no indication that any civilians were involved.

The coalition's long-term commitment to the people of Afghanistan is unwavering. While we continue to destroy terrorist organizations and their infrastructure, we enable and assist the accelerated growth of Afghan political, civil and military institutions.


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