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US Forces in Afghanistan Search for Killers of American Soldier - 2002-05-20

Coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan are pursuing the gunmen who killed a U.S. special forces soldier. Operations continue to locate and destroy remnants of the al-Qaida and Taleban.

The American soldier was killed when the group of Afghan fighters he was traveling with came under fire near a village in eastern Afghanistan. One Afghan fighter was wounded. One of the attackers was killed.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says the American soldier's death - the 36th U.S. fatality in the anti-terrorist campaign - underscores the dangers that remain in Afghanistan. "His death reminds us that Afghanistan is a very, very dangerous place," she said. "It also reminds us of the sacrifices being made every day by the men and women in the military, and I would say it strengthens our resolve in the pursuit of the terrorists, the terrorist networks and those who are harboring and fostering and supporting them."

Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold of the Pentagon's Joint Staff said the soldier's death occurred during a search for al-Qaida and Taleban fugitives.

He said the identity of the attackers is unknown. But he said al-Qaida and Taleban forces have changed tactics in recent weeks, breaking up into small groups in an effort to avoid presenting a major target to coalition troops. "The willingness of the Taleban and al-Qaida to form large groups that will stand and fight against our forces is now dissipated," he said. "They have changed tactics. They operate in small groups to avoid contact with our forces."

Pentagon officials say they believe coalition attacks have made al-Qaida's ability to operate in or from Afghanistan more difficult.

But they warn the group has global reach and concur with administration assessments that another major terrorist attack against the United States or U.S. interests is likely.