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US Aircraft Attack al-Qaida Camp - 2002-01-04

U.S. aircraft have attacked an al-Qaida camp near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan after detecting activity by terrorists regrouping there.

Thursday's air attack was the first in several days. The target was an extensive al-Qaida facility hit previously during Operation Enduring Freedom and also in a 1998 cruise missile attack staged in retaliation for the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says there was new activity at the terrorist camp that warranted the air-strikes. "We conducted strikes... on a leadership compound that was a fairly extensive compound. It had a base camp, training facility and some caves fairly close to the Pakistani border... It was conducted by B-1 bombers, Navy F-18 aircraft and AC-130 gunships," he explained.

Such U.S. strikes are now rare. But the Pentagon continues to warn that there are still pockets of resistance in Afghanistan despite the battlefield successes of American-backed anti-Taleban forces.

General Myers stressed Afghanistan is still a dangerous place. "I think it's important to note that there are still pockets of resistance. That it's still a very dangerous place," he said. "We remain committed to rooting out the al-Qaida leadership that remains in Afghanistan and the Taleban leadership that remains in Afghanistan, and for that matter destroying the al-Qaida network worldwide."

U.S. forces have now taken into custody nearly 250 Taleban and al-Qaida fighters. Some of them will be transferred to the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba once construction is completed there on some new detention facilities.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicates the facilities will be high-security, designed to minimize the potential risk of holding those he describes as "hard cases" implicated in past murders and escapes.

Mr. Rumsfeld says some of the detainees are senior Taleban and al-Qaida leaders. But so far, the top leaders of those two groups, Mullah Mohamed Omar and Osama bin Laden, have apparently eluded capture.

Mr. Rumsfeld rejects suggestions that has cast a shadow over the success of the U.S. military operation. He says it is extremely difficult to catch an individual but he voices confidence both Omar and bin Laden will eventually be brought to justice. NEB/BEL/PT