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Al Qaeda holdouts slain in hospital assault

An Afghan fighter walks along a ledge of the hospital.
An Afghan fighter walks along a ledge of the hospital.  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Six heavily armed al Qaeda fighters, holed up for six weeks in a Kandahar hospital ward, were killed Monday after U.S. Special Forces and Afghan soldiers launched an assault on the facility, authorities said.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reported that Afghan officials had given the six fighters ample opportunity to surrender but that they had refused, choosing to fight to the death.

Five Afghan fighters were reported injured in the assault, which lasted for about 12 hours.

U.S. Army Maj. A.C. Roper said the U.S. military took part in the assault at the request of the Afghan military.

Afghan soldiers supported by U.S. Special Forces launched an attack on six al Qaeda fighters holed up in a Kandahar hospital, killing all six. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports (January 28)

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Loud blasts and machine gun fire marked the start of the operation at Mir Weis hospital early Monday, on the western edge of the city. Gunfire could also be heard inside the hospital wing where the al Qaeda fighters had been holed up.

At one point, a U.S. Special Forces soldier could be seen creeping along the outside of the building, and Special Forces snipers were poised along a wall next to the hospital. An Afghan fighter was seen on a window ledge of the hospital.

Several hours after the assault began at about 8:20 a.m. (10:50 p.m. ET Sunday), small arms fire could again be heard in "the general direction" of the hospital. In addition, a muffled explosion could be heard, following a lull in the exchanges.

A large plume of smoke was also seen rising from the hospital roof as a fire truck raced to the scene.

All roads leading to the hospital were closed with barbed wire barricades. U.S. Special Forces and local Afghan troops were guarding the roads.

The six members of al Qaeda had barricaded themselves in a wing of the hospital in a tense standoff that began after the Taliban fled the city in December. They had threatened to blow themselves up if anyone tried to move in on them.




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