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US Soldiers in Afghanistan Investigate CIA Missile Attack - 2002-02-08

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have gone to a remote area near the Pakistan border to see who was killed in a missile attack on a suspected band of al-Qaida terrorists. More than 50 U.S. soldiers are at the site where suspected al-Qaida members were believed killed in a missile attack.

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military said Friday the soldiers were taken to the site, near Zawar Kili in eastern Afghanistan, at night. He said they were waiting until daylight to begin investigating the results of Monday's attack by an unmanned Predator drone. "The strike was on some individuals. Who is to be determined. That's what they're gathering the intelligence on," General Myers said.

The remote-controlled Predator, operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, fired a Hellfire missile at a group of people gathered by a truck. Pentagon sources said one of the suspects was very tall and the others showed deference to him, suggesting he was a leader and triggering speculation the tall man might have been al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters Friday that remains uncertain. "We just simply have no idea," he said.

Efforts to get U.S. forces to the scene earlier were blocked by bad weather.

Zawar Kili was the site of a known al-Qaida training and weapons storage facility bombed extensively earlier in the conflict. U.S. officials were apparently continuing to monitor the area with reconnaissance drones out of concern terrorists might use it to regroup.

Meanwhile, flights of al-Qaida and Taleban detainees have resumed from Afghanistan to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Secretary Rumsfeld conceded the White House decision this week to apply the Geneva Convention to Taleban captives, but to deny them and the al-Qaida detainees prisoner of war status, will have no impact on their treatment. He said they will continue to receive humane care. "Notwithstanding the pockets of international hyperventilation, we do not treat detainees in any manner other than a manner that is humane," the secretary said.

Mr. Rumsfeld has been highly critical of some international press reports suggesting the restraints and blindfolds used on detainees while they are in transit amount to torture.