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Operation Anaconda entering second week


U.S.-led forces were dealing with heavy fog and snowstorms in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, but coalition officials said they had planned for the wintry weather and that the operation was "right on plan."

As Operation Anaconda approached the end of its first week Friday, U.S. authorities declined to speculate on how long the operation might last.

"One would assume days, not weeks or months," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday. "I'd be reluctant to be any more precise than that."

Pentagon officials Thursday put the confirmed number of enemy dead at 450 but said they estimate the real number is 650. The United States now has 1,200 troops on the ground in the area, the Pentagon said

Eleven allied service members, including eight from the United States, have been killed and about 70 have been wounded.

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    Reports from the battlefield, located about 100 miles south of Kabul, indicated light fighting to the north in Paktia province with heavier fighting to the south. Military officials said the coalition forces had engaged a pocket of hard-core fighters. (Full story)

    The U.S. Army presented the Purple Heart on Friday to six soldiers wounded March 2 in Operation Anaconda. "It is an honor for me today to recognize these soldiers as representative of those who are wounded in action or killed in action. It's an honor for me to be able to participate in this and I'm humble to be in the presence of such courage and such heroism," Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek said.

    Nearly 14,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their home country from Pakistan since a government-sponsored repatriation effort began nearly a week ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday. Many refugees told the UNHCR they are hurrying home to enroll their children in school later this month, and to begin cultivating their farms as spring approaches.

    Thai police detained 25 people from other countries for questioning as part of a joint operation with the United States in the fight against terrorism, sources told CNN Friday. Thailand's national police chief said the operation has no connection with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network, while sources tell CNN it's a wide-ranging investigation that may or may not include links to al Qaeda. (Full story)

    CNN has learned that a color-coded threat warning system the Office of Homeland Security expects to unveil shortly will specify which location, city or state, is threatened and must be put on a higher state of alert. (Full story)

    U.S. military officials in charge of Afghan war detainees in Cuba say a hunger strike that began last week has virtually ended. The protest began after guards burst into a prisoner's cell following his refusal to remove a handmade turban during prayers. (Full story)


    How long will Operation Anaconda continue? Does it represent al Qaeda's final stand?

    Will the United States need to send more troops into eastern Afghanistan?

    How long will the Afghan war detainees be held at Guantanamo Bay?

    Will the United States' revised threat warning system reduce the need for and frequency of nationwide alerts?

    Will the system make a difference in how people go about their business?

    WHO'S WHO:

    Osama bin Laden: Saudi Arabian-born leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network who is accused of masterminding the September 11 strikes on the United States.

    George W. Bush: U.S. president

    Donald Rumsfeld: U.S. secretary of defense




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