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Afghan Rockets Miss U.S. Troops; More Leaflets Fall as Iraq Countdown Wanes

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2003 – While much of the nation's focus has been on the prospect of war with Iraq, U.S. military forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom are still the target of hostilities.

U.S. forces reported today that three 107 mm rockets were fired over their positions in Gardez, roughly 60 miles south of the capital city of Kabul. U.S. Central Command officials said they're unsure of the rockets' launch or landing points. No injuries to U.S. soldiers or equipment damage were reported.

In another incident, an Afghan boy tried to stab a U.S. soldier with a syringe containing an unknown liquid. The soldier was not injured, and the young attacker escaped.

U.S. explosive ordnance disposal units destroyed a large arms cache yesterday at Kandahar Air Base. CENTCOM officials said the cache contained 4,000 82 mm mortar rounds, 500 100 mm projectiles, and 6,000 rounds of 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm ammunition.

Meanwhile, as the clock ticks on President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war, coalition aircraft continue to warn Iraqis of pending military action in their country. Today, more than 1 million informational leaflets were scattered over western and southern Iraq near military and civilian sites in 20 locations.

CENTCOM officials said the leaflet drop was the largest to date, bringing the total to 12 million dropped this year in Iraq. The leaflets' messages were varied. One stressed that coalition forces do not wish to harm innocent Iraqis and are trained to defend themselves against chemical attack.

Another message informed Iraqis that they could be the victims if Saddam Hussein uses chemical weapons. A third encouraged the Iraqi military to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction, according to a CENTCOM press release.

The president's Iraq ultimatum prompted Marine Gen. James L. Jones, head of U.S. European Command, to direct a EUCOM-wide force protection posture change today. Command officials called the change a "prudent measure" to ensure the security and safety of military and civilian personnel there.

"We do not, as a matter of policy, discuss specifics of how the force protection condition is determined, however. We are firmly committed to maintain a robust security posture tailored to the threat assessment and our overall environment across the region," a command spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also asked community members and their families to continue to maintain a heightened sense of security, vigilance and awareness.

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