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More Attacks In Afghanistan

Three U.S. bases were attacked with gunfire and rockets in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend, the U.S. military said Monday. There were no reports of casualties.

Helicopter pilots spotted tracer fire at an outpost near Lawara, 110 miles southwest of Kabul, while they were landing and taking off on Saturday night, said Air Force Maj. Steve Clutter, deputy spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

A patrol later discovered a rocket launcher aimed at the base, Clutter said. A demolition team destroyed the rocket.

Also Saturday night, two 107mm rockets exploded 500 yards and 800 yards from a U.S. base near Khost. A platoon sent to find the launch site found an 82mm mortar and confiscated it.

Three rockets were launched Saturday at a base near Gardez but landed far from their target, Clutter said. A helicopter also reported seeing tracer fire.

Other recent events suspected of links to al Qaeda and its affiliates this month have included:

  • Oct. 2: Suspected Abu Sayyaf guerillas detonate a nail-laden bomb in an open-air market in Zamboanga, Philippines, killing three people, including an American Green Beret, and injuring 25 others.
  • Oct. 3: The Justice Department charges six people in Portland, Oregon, with belonging to a terrorist cell and trying to join al Qaeda to fight U.S. troops. Four are arrested in the United States and a fifth in Malaysia. The sixth is sought.
  • Oct. 6: Al-Jazeera receives and broadcasts an audio tape of bin Laden speaking. It is not known when the tape was made.
  • Oct. 6: A small boat crashes into a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen and explodes, killing one crewman. Later in the week, U.S. officials say they believe al Qaeda is linked to the attack.
  • Oct. 8: A new audiotape of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's top deputy, is circulating. U.S. officials say it was made in August at the earliest, but more likely in the last few weeks. Al-Zawahri claims bin Laden is alive.
  • Oct. 8: Two gunmen in a pickup truck attack a Marine unit on training maneuvers on Failaka, an island 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Kuwait City. Lance Cpl. Antonio J. Sledd, 20, of Hillsborough, Florida, is shot dead. The gunmen drive to a second location and attack again before being killed by Marines. U.S. officials say they are suspected of ties to al Qaeda.
  • Oct. 9: A U.S. serviceman in a Humvee fires on another vehicle in Kuwait after seeing someone point a gun. The vehicles separate; no U.S. personnel are killed.
  • Oct. 12: Nearly 200 people, including two Americans, are killed in a pair of bombings in a nightclub district of the Indonesian island of Bali. Suspicion falls on al Qaeda and its affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah.
  • Oct. 14: U.S. forces came under fire from two civilian vehicles near a training area in northern Kuwait. No one was hurt, and the Americans did not return fire.
Attackers typically use timers or remote control to launch rockets at U.S. bases in Afghanistan, and troops rarely find the people responsible.

"Unfortunately, we haven't been able to engage the enemy directly," Clutter said. "The enemy has been pretty stealthy; they don't come out and show themselves."

Some timers are as simple as a punctured can filled with water. As the water runs out, it completes an electrical circuit and launches the rocket.

Clutter he did not believe the three attacks heralded a resurgence of the Taliban or al Qaeda.

"This happens quite a bit. We're always concerned when there's bad guys out there shooting at our soldiers, but it is a sign that they know we're there and they known we're being effective," he said.

Also Monday, U.S military officials denied a claim by Afghan officials that a U.S. helicopter crashed while trying to land in the eastern province of Kunar. The area is one of several being combed by U.S. forces for fugitive Al Qaeda and Taliban men.

Sayed Ahmed Safi, a government spokesman in Kunar, said a U.S. helicopter clipped some tree branches and crashed, but U.S. military officials said there was no truth to the report.

On Friday, troops found two warehouses in Khost filled with weapons, and a U.S. military spokesman said they were believed to belong to Bacha Khan Zardran, a warlord who was driven out of the area last month. On Monday, Clutter said the second warehouse belonged to a local commander allied with U.S. forces.

Clutter said usable weapons from the first warehouse would be given to Afghan fighters working with the U.S. troops.

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