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U.S. strikes 'leadership compound'

Sources: Taliban leader may have been inside

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. warplanes scored a hit against a "leadership compound" near the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

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"There has been an attack from the air on a leadership compound southeast of Kandahar," Rumsfeld told reporters on a flight to Washington from Tampa, Florida.

"Whoever was there is gonna wish they weren't."

An official with the U.S. Central Command told CNN "two known Taliban facilities" were struck at the compound around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday (4 p.m. ET Tuesday), and that "battle damage is ongoing."

"We know we did strike the targets," he said.

Pentagon sources said the attacks were carried out by an Air Force F-16, which dropped a laser-guided bomb, and a B-1 bomber, which dropped a 2,000-pound satellite-guided bomb, or JDAM.

The sources said the strikes were ordered shortly after the United States received intelligence information that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was inside one building. The pilots reported "good hits" on both, the sources said. Visual imagery showed rubble where the buildings stood, according to the sources.

The extent of casualties was not immediately known. One official said it could be a day or two until the full extent of damage is known.

Rumsfeld was returning from a visit to Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa when he commented to reporters. Pentagon sources said the order to strike the compounds in Afghanistan was made while he was at MacDill.

U.S. officials said they believe at least one compound hit belonged to Wafa, an Islamic charity organization that allegedly funnels money to al Qaeda. The officials said most of the leaders of Wafa are al Qaeda members.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon said it had received "credible reports" suggesting that Mohammed Atef -- one of al Qaeda's top aides to Osama bin Laden -- was killed in an airstrike south of Kabul.

Rumsfeld said at the time he could not confirm Atef's death but that "the reports I've received seem authoritative." He said the information he received indicated Atef was killed by an airstrike.

Atef -- whose daughter is married to one of bin Laden's sons -- has been among the top three in al Qaeda since 1996, according to U.S. officials.

He is considered al Qaeda's military chief and bin Laden's likely successor. The other man in the top three, Ayman al Zawahiri, is considered the brains of the terrorist operation.

Atef is on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.



 
 
 
 



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