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Afghanistan: U.S.-led Offensive Meets Stiff Opposition

Gardez, Afghanistan; 3 March 2002 (RFE/RL)-- Fierce fighting today forced U.S.-led troops to halt their offensive against Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorist holdouts in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. One American soldier and three allied Afghan soldiers were confirmed dead during today's fighting in Paktia Province. Another American and at least four Afghans were injured in a mortar attack.

As fighters on the ground encountered heavy fire, U.S. warplanes bombed suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda hideouts, using newly developed bombs designed to send fireballs through underground caves.

U.S. military officials in Kabul said today's fighting was the largest ground assault yet in the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. U.S. forces are playing a supporting role in the clash, fighting alongside some 1,500 Afghan troops.

Overnight, U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets in local languages asking residents to come forward with information about the fugitive Taliban and Al-Qaeda members.