Report: Al Qaeda Executed
Fallen U.s. Sailor
|U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne division
off load during a combat mission from a Chinook 47 helicopter
March 5, 2002 in Eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by David Marck jr/US
our discussion here.
Navy SEAL who fell from a helicopter fleeing enemy fire was not killed by
the fall - he was killed by al Qaeda fighters who grabbed him while U.S.
military officials reportedly watched real-time surveillance pictures from
an unmanned spy plane.
The SEAL was identified by Pentagon
officials as Petty Officer 1st class Neil Roberts, 32, of Woodland,
Calif., but in a briefing Tuesday on the incident Brig. Gen John Rosa, a
spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave no indication of how the
sailor was killed.
The revelation came first from an Associated
Press reporter, and was later confirmed to other journalists by Maj. Gen.
Frank Hagenbeck in Afghanistan.
"We saw him on the Predator
[surveillance plane] being dragged off by three al Qaeda men," Hagenbeck
When his body was recovered later, he was found to have died
from bullet wounds, in what appeared to have been an execution, military
The U.S.-led troops laying seige to the mountain
stronghold of al Qaeda fighters have continued to make gains in the fierce
fighting, and military officials now say the coalition forces are in a
"We've got confirmed kills in the hundreds,"
Hagenbeck said at a news conference today at the Bagram air base, north of
Kabul. "We truly have the momentum at this point."
The estimate of
the number of al Qaeda fighters who were hiding in the snow-covered
mountains of Paktia province when the assault began Friday evening has
risen to 600 to 700, but the U.S. military believes that there are
considerably fewer who have survived the days of fighting.
"Conservatively speaking right now, I'm convinced from the
evidence I've seen that we've killed at least half of those enemy forces,"
Rushing in Reinforcements
The fighting in
eastern Afghanistan continues to be intense, though, and the United States
is rushing in reinforcements to replace the large number of helicopters
damaged in the battle, ABCNEWS has learned.
Four out of 10 Apache
helicopters used in the battle have been grounded due to damage, and
nearly every helicopter that has returned to base within the last 48 hours
has bullet holes, military sources told ABCNEWS. Five Marine Corps Cobra
gunships have been rushed to the fight, the sources said.
addition, Reuters is reporting that hundreds of U.S. troops, many armed
with equipment to attack caves, are being airlifted to the battle.
On Monday, seven U.S. soldiers were killed -- including Roberts --
in two incidents involving MH-47 Chinook helicopters. Their bodies arrived
this morning at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
fighters assisting U.S. troops have also been killed in the battle.
The fighting is centered on a cave complex southeast of Kabul, in
a 60-square-mile area known as Shah-e-Kot. Originally expected to last no
more than 72 hours, Operation Anaconda is in its fifth day.
'We've Killed a Lot of People'
Rosa said Tuesday that U.S. forces had
been able to "maintain the attack on our terms and our pace."
biggest thing to change is we've killed a lot of people," Rosa said.
"We've killed a lot of people and they're not moving around as much as
they were previously. They're dug in."
Troops were able to search
one of the cave complexes used by al Qaeda and Taliban forces, Rosa said.
They found mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition, and a stash of
foreign passports and identification cards.
In an al Qaeda
compound that was overrun by U.S. troops on Saturday, more weapons,
equipment and documents were found.
"It was unbelievable, in the mud hut where these guys slept, the beds
were still warm and tea was still brewing," Sgt. Maj, Mark Nielsen told
The Associated Press. "We also found lots of AK-47 ammunition and medicine
along with night vision devices and radios. We destroyed most of what
In other developments:
A trail of e-mails and
Internet Web sites indicates that al Qaeda followers have been trying to
regroup in the mountains of western Pakistan, The New York Times reported,
citing U.S. government officials. The officials told the newspaper that
issue was a serious concern because it indicated that al Qaeda had a high
level of computer sophistication and could use that ability to launch new
terror attacks on the United States.
U.S. intelligence has
uncovered terrorist plots to conduct car bombings in Kabul aimed at
Western targets and members of the interim Afghan government of Hamid
Karzai, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The
Associated Press. Terrorist cells linked to al Qaeda were to carry out the
car bombings, the official told the news agency.
could be targeted by al Qaeda and Taliban supporters angered by the
U.S.-led assault in the Paktia province, international peacekeepers in
Afghanistan told Reuters. The peacekeepers said they have received what
they called "a serious threat about the kidnap of a journalist in
retaliation for the operation." Eight journalists have been killed
covering the war in Afghanistan.
ABCNEWS' John McWethy and Brian
Hartman in Washington contributed to this report.
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