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US Forces Find Signs of Enemy Near Kandahar Airport - 2002-01-16


American forces based at Kandahar airport say they are continuing to find evidence of would-be attackers probing the defenses around the perimeter of the air field.

The latest weapon was found by a U.S. Marine patrol Tuesday night, 600 meters north of the airport's main runway. Marine spokesman James Jarvis says the weapon was an unloaded 82 millimeter mortar tube. He says the patrol did not find any personnel in the vicinity.

Monday, the Marines discovered a cache of weapons, including mortar bombs, fuses and rocket-propelled grenades, just 300 meters from the perimeter of the base. The troops also found a series of tunnels and cave entrances under a building not far from U.S. positions. The tunnels and caves have since been destroyed.

The U.S. military believes the tunnels and weapons are linked to last Thursday's attack on Marine positions at the airport. About 14 gunmen, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, opened fire as a plane carrying 20 Taleban and al-Qaida prisoners took off for Cuba.

Lieutenant Jarvis says the weapons discoveries show pockets of resistance are still active.

"We haven't gotten them all," he admitted. "As soon as the U.S. forces established Camp Rhino and the Kandahar air field here, we did notice a lot of Taleban and al-Qaida trying to blend in with the local population. It's difficult to ascertain who is who."

But the spokesman stressed that "we continue to gather information, use all of the intelligence resource available to us and, if we get an opportunity to hone in on where some of these pockets of resistance are, we will engage them."

U.S. military intelligence officials at Kandahar airport say they are interrogating a man who walked up to the front gate Tuesday, demanding to speak with U.S. soldiers. The officials will not reveal his identity or his nationality, but they say he is providing them with what they termed "useful" information."

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