Marines land south of Kandahar
From Jamie McIntyre
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The first of what should soon be between 1,200 and 1,500 Marines landed south of the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar on Sunday, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
Helicopters shuttled several hundred Marines and their equipment into southern Afghanistan, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They are to be joined by hundreds more in the next 24 hours, the official said.
Spokesmen at the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command declined comment on the reported action.
U.S. aircraft, including fighter jets and AC-130 gunships, struck Kandahar from the sky on Sunday, contributing to the most intense fighting in Kandahar in weeks, according to reports from the ground. Heavy fighting continued early Monday, but it could not be determined who was participating.
The Marine force includes members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit of Camp Pendleton, California, aboard the Amphibious Assault Ship USS Peleliu, and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, aboard the USS Bataan. Both ships are stationed in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Pakistan.
The Marines are to interdict Taliban and al Qaeda troops and gather intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and his followers -- activities similar to those now being played by U.S. Army special forces inside Afghanistan, a U.S. official said.
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