No. 2 Al Qaeda Terrorist May Have Been Killed
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2001 Air strikes in Afghanistan may have killed Mohammed Atef, the No. 2 man in the Al Qaeda terrorist network, Pentagon officials said today.
Officials estimate that the Taliban regime has now lost control of over two-thirds of Afghanistan.
Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said at a Pentagon press briefing that Atef appears to have died during a planned strike against Taliban and Al Qaeda command and control. "If true, that is important to us. To get at Al Qaeda -- that's our principal mission," he said. "Getting at the leadership of Al Qaeda is a positive thing.
"If Atef has been killed, it will have an impact on their future operations. That's good for us. It probably has no impact on operations that have already been planned and are in the can just waiting for some triggering device."
Northern Alliance groups are making gains south of Kabul and around the western city of Herat, Stufflebeem said. Opposition groups are consolidating their gains and reducing pockets of resistance in the north. Opposition groups in the south are attacking Taliban forces and are approaching Ghanzi. Other groups are approaching Jalalabad.
The admiral said U.S. special operations forces are now also operating in the southern part of the country. They are doing strategic reconnaissance and are "ready to engage in direct actions when they positively identify the enemy or have to defend themselves." They are also guiding U.S. planes to targets and contacting opposition tribes to coordinate actions against the Taliban.
U.S. air attacks Nov. 15 hit Taliban troops concentrations when they could be found and positively identified, Stufflebeem said. Attacks continued against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets Nov. 16, the first day of Ramadan.