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Increased Enemy Activity in Afghanistan Reported

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2002 – Military officials in Bagram, Afghanistan, this morning reported U.S. forces killed one enemy and injured another in the firefight that killed an American soldier Dec. 21. Two other American soldiers in Afghanistan were injured the same day in separate incidents.

The Army has identified Sgt. Steven Checo, of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., as the soldier killed Dec. 21 when his unit came under fire from "enemy forces."

A U.S. military spokesman at Bagram said the paratroopers were on a mounted patrol near Shkin at about 12:30 a.m. local time when they observed several people moving toward the firebase there. When the patrol approached the individuals, the unknown men started running away and opened small-arms fire on the soldiers.

Checo was injured in the ensuing firefight. He was evacuated to a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan and died during surgery. The assailants escaped across the Pakistani border, the spokesman said.

Military officials in Bagram said today that they believe the same individuals are responsible for a series of rocket attacks at Shkin later that morning. Six rockets were launched toward the base between 9:30 and 10:10 a.m. None of them caused any injuries. Troops later found six alarm clocks in the area, leading officials to believe the rockets were on a time delay.

Later that night, the U.S. forces at the firebase reported seeing suspicious individuals and called in close-air support. Two AC-130 gunships and two AH-64 Apache helicopters responded and reported seeing a convoy of three vehicles moving toward the area with their lights off.

The pilots later reported seeing a rocket fired, which landed east of the firebase. No damage was reported. The aircraft remained in the area for eight more hours but reported no more activity, officials said.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan were involved in several other incidents over the past several days. Officials reported that Dec. 20 a U.S. soldier at Asadabad was injured when a rocket struck inside the coalition base there. The soldier was evacuated to Bagram Air Base, where he had surgery for non-life-threatening injuries. The soldier is reportedly in stable condition.

Two A-10 Thunderbolts responded to the rocket firing. They struck the suspected launch site with 2,000 rounds from 30 mm guns.

In a third incident, an American Special Forces soldier sustained injuries when he attempted to correct a misfire on a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He was participating in training with Afghan military forces near Spin Boldak, which is about 60 miles southeast of Kandahar.

That soldier was evacuated to Kandahar for treatment and then on to Bagram for surgery. He is reported in stable condition.

Later Dec. 20, two rockets struck near Forward Operating Base Salerno, in Khowst. They caused no injuries or damage. Officials said the rockets were fired from two separate points of origin, both about five kilometers southwest of the base.

Troops at the firebase fired illumination rounds and called in close-air support, which consisted of AH-64s and A-10s. The A-10 pilots reported spotting six individuals near the point of rocket fire, but nothing further.

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