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Sniper Wounds Soldier in Afghanistan

November 28, 2002

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BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) _ A sniper shot and wounded a U.S. special forces soldier as he rode in a convoy in eastern Afghanistan, an army spokesman said Thursday.

The soldier, who is in stable condition, was struck in the upper left thigh Wednesday as he traveled about four miles east of Gardez in Paktia province, Col. Roger King told reporters at Bagram Air Base, headquarters of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan.

Soldiers scoured the nearby hills for the gunman, who has not been found.

The soldier, whose identity was not given, was operated on at a nearby U.S. base. The wound was not life threatening and King said the soldier will be transferred to Bagram later Thursday for further treatment.

So far the U.S. military has not said who they believed was behind the attack.

``Thanksgiving is a kind of a special holiday and there are a lot of different thanks you can go to,″ King said. ``The soldier in Gardez is probably thankful for the fact that he was wounded in the leg instead of somewhere else.″

U.S. special forces are deployed throughout eastern and southern Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaida fugitives and Taliban leaders, who gave refuge to Osama bin Laden.

Dozens of attacks have occurred against the U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan. Most of them have involved rocket attacks on U.S. outposts in eastern Afghanistan, where soldiers are trying to stop fleeing terrorists from escaping to neighboring Pakistan.

On Nov. 21, a single rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a two-vehicle convoy with U.S. soldiers traveling to Gardez. There were no casualties or damage in that incident.

Also Thursday, King said a huge cache of weapons seized north of the central Afghan town of Bamyan by special forces earlier this week was linked to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Soldiers destroyed or carried away about 15 tons _ or three truckloads _ of weaponry and ammunition, which included 107 mm rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and two Soviet-made anti-aircraft guns, King said.

More weapons caches found in a nearby village were found to be booby-trapped, and unknown gunmen fired small-arms fire at the soldiers, King said. There were no U.S. casualties in the Monday evening search.

King said villagers told special forces interviewers that the weaponry belonged to Hekmatyar’s organization Hizb-e-Islami, which was one of the U.S.-aided guerrilla armies that fought Soviet invaders in the 1980s. Hekmatyar served as Afghan prime minister then fled to Iran in 1996 after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the capital.

Recently, his forces have forged an alliance with Taliban fugitives and claim to be receiving arms and money from al-Qaida and Iran.

The largest weapons seizure by U.S. forces yet was a cache of 420 500-pound air-to-ground bombs found in September near the southeastern city of Kandahar.

Update hourly