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US Launches Anti-Terrorism Operation in E. Afghanistan - 2003-07-04

The U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition is carrying out an operation in eastern parts of Afghanistan to eliminate remnants of the deposed Taleban and the al-Qaida terrorist network.

A U.S. military spokesman says the operation, launched Wednesday, is centered in Paktika and Khost provinces.

Speaking to reporters at the U.S.-controlled Bagram Air Force base, near Kabul, the spokesman said the operation "Haven Denial" is aimed at preventing the re-emergence of terrorism and denying sanctuary to anti-coalition fighters in the region. He says the activity will continue until "defined objectives are met."

The two Afghan provinces are located along the border with Pakistan. In recent weeks, suspected Taleban fighters and their allies have targeted U.S. and local troops, as well as aid organizations in the mountainous Afghan region.

Afghan officials have repeatedly expressed concern about fleeing Taleban and al-Qaida fighters finding refuge in the Pakistani border regions. Pakistan denies that the attacks in Afghanistan are being carried out from its soil. Pakistan has deployed thousands of troops along the Afghan border to prevent such activity.

Unknown gunmen ambushed a U.S. patrol last week in the Shkin area of Paktika province, but no U.S. soldiers were hurt in the attack.

About 12,000 foreign troops, most of them from the United States, are hunting Taleban and al-Qaida fugitives and fighters loyal to former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The United States has declared him a terrorist.