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Rumsfeld: Mop-Up in E. Afghanistan May Be Finished this Week - 2002-03-11


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says U.S. led coalition forces hope to finish mopping up operations against remaining al-Qaida fighters in eastern Afghanistan this week.

Mr. Rumsfeld says many al-Qaida fighters have been killed and several captured in Operation Anaconda, the U.S.-led assault on terrorist strongholds in the mountains south of Gardez.

But Mr. Rumsfeld says the fate of al-Qaida leaders like Osama bin Laden remains uncertain. "We do know there are a great many al-Qaida that have been killed," he said. "We do not have names and ranks and serial numbers. We do have several al-Qaida prisoners that have been captured and will be interrogated and of course as the mopping up process continues, additional information will be gained."

Mr. Rumsfeld spoke to reporters on the steps of the Pentagon during a brief ceremony recalling the terrorist attack on the building six months ago. He was joined by military officials from 29 countries who have joined the United States in the war on terrorists.

The Defense Secretary says their presence reflects what he terms "truly new levels of cooperation, unity and strength.

"We have the opportunity to tear terrorism out by the roots," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "By our campaign against terrorism, we are preventing acts of terror that may well have been planned before September 11 and we would have never known until it was too late."

125 people were killed in the Pentagon when suicide terrorists crashed a commandeered jetliner into the building.

Construction crews have made rapid progress in rebuilding and hope to have much of the damaged portion fully restored by this coming September 11.

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