KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- About 100 U.S. soldiers, accompanied by 50 Afghan fighters, are scouring the rugged mountains in an area where a former Taliban official says Osama bin Laden maintained several hide-outs.
The little-publicized operation is underway in Kunar province, north of Jalalabad along the Pakistan border, Afghan and U.S. officials said. First word of the operation came Tuesday, when U.S. officials at Bagram air base said American forces came under mortar fire in Kunar but suffered no casualties.
"The Americans are here in Kunar ... but I can't say for sure whether there are al-Qaida here," said local government spokesman Saeed Mohammed Safi, who provided the number of troops involved.
"We have a lot of mountains and gorges and forests where (al-Qaida) can hide. But I haven't seen any," he said Wednesday.
In Washington, U.S. officials said the operation was launched because of clues that important al-Qaida or Taliban figures may be hiding in the area. They would not elaborate.
However, a former Taliban security official, who spoke to The Associated Press last spring on condition of anonymity, said he had accompanied bin Laden to his hide-outs in the mountains of Kunar province.
Most of the known al-Qaida camps are believed to be in six Afghan provinces: Kunar, Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces in the east, and Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.