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US Troops Search for Kandahar Airport Gunmen

U.S. Marines in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar are hunting for gunmen who reportedly opened fire on an American military plane transporting al-Qaida and Taleban prisoners to Cuba.

U.S. Marines in Kandahar are still combing the area around the city's airport, trying to hunt down the men responsible for the attack early Friday morning. Marine spokesman 1st Lieutenant James Jarvis says security procedures are also being reviewed.

Witnesses say as many as 14 people armed with automatic weapons opened fire from three different positions outside the base perimeter as a C-17 transport plane took off with 20 al-Qaida and Taleban prisoners on board. The prisoners were being transferred from Kandahar to a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to be questioned and possibly tried.

The Marines responded to the attack with assault rifles and grenade launchers while Cobra attack helicopters scoured the area. There were no U.S. casualties and patrols around the airport later in the day uncovered a pair of rocket-propelled grenades, but no bodies.

In the capital, Kabul, an advance team of 60 German peacekeepers arrived Friday to lay down the groundwork for the deployment of up to 1,000 troops later this month.

The Germans are joining more than 1,000 British soldiers already in Kabul. The troops began patrols of the capital Thursday with the newly-formed Afghan police. But British army spokesman, Major Guy Richardson, says British troops will not be conducting joint patrols with the Germans or any other peacekeeping teams in the near future.

"What we're looking at doing is sectorizing off the area of Kabul," the major said. "For example, the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, they have a sector they are responsible for. We do that for a very good reason and that is we get to know the police chiefs very well. We get to know the police very well and very importantly, we get to know the ground very well."

British troops are now patrolling the southwest section of Kabul while German soldiers will most likely be based on the northeast side.

Two hundred British peacekeepers are also assisting Afghan security teams at Kabul airport. Authorities say de-mining operations and runway repair work are nearly complete. The bombed-out airport is expected to open for commercial flights in the next few days.