Friday, June 12, 2009

Warlord Targeted in Afghan Strike May Have Survived, Officials Say

An Afghan warlord and Taliban commander believed to have been killed in a June 9 air strike may have survived the attack, military officials reported yesterday.

Initial Afghan and coalition reports said Mullah Mustafa died in the strike, but credible reports surfaced today that Mustafa survived, U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials said.

Coalition forces had seen Mustafa moving by vehicle from his compound. When he stopped in a remote, unpopulated area in Afghanistan's Ghowr province, he was joined by a number of associates. After ensuring there were no civilians present, coalition forces used precision aerial munitions to strike the group.

Today, unsubstantiated reports of civilian casualties emerged, officials said, adding that they are working with Afghan partners to examine those reports. The officials emphasized that coalition forces took extensive measures to protect noncombatants and that a thorough review of intelligence and surveillance supports initial reports that all killed in the strikes were legitimate enemy targets.

"Mustafa is an enemy of Afghanistan, and we're working with Afghan officials to pursue him until he is captured or confirmed killed," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan. "In addition, we are working closely with Afghan partners to investigate unconfirmed reports of civilians among Mustafa's party."

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)
American Forces Press Service

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