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6 Al-Qaida Fighters Killed in Kandahar Hospital - 2002-01-28

Six members of the al-Qaida terrorist group have been killed in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, ending a nearly two month standoff in a city hospital.

The operation started before dawn, with U.S. Special Forces on hand to advise Afghan soldiers on the assault on the hospital.

Automatic weapons fire and grenade blasts could be heard sporadically for the next 10 hours.

A spokesman for the governor of Kandahar said authorities gave the six al-Qaida gunmen every chance to surrender to Afghan forces. But Khalid Pashtun says those offers were refused. "There are six Arabists dead," he said. "We gave them the alternative, the ultimatum, they could surrender, we would take care of them, they would be safe. They were not listening, they were not talking they were not willing to cooperate. And finally, after the harsh fighting, finally they were all dead."

Five members of the Afghan forces were wounded in the operation. A confrontation Mr. Pashtun says was far from easy. "They were fighting until the last minute of their life," he said.

The operation marks the end of a nearly two-month standoff between the al-Qaida members and local authorities.

Nine al-Qaida members were receiving treatment in the hospital when the former Taleban government in Kandahar fell to opposition forces in December. Two were coaxed out of the building and were arrested, a third killed himself with a grenade. The remaining six barricaded themselves inside, threatening suicide.

U.S. Special Forces helped seal the perimeter of the Mir Wais Hospital throughout the assault. From a nearby building an American sharpshooter could be seen outside the hospital gate. Other American soldiers kept civilians from wandering into the line of fire.