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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK
Troops wrap up Afghan search
Royal Navy helicopter in the Afghan mountains
The troops pulled out on schedule
International coalition troops have wound up a five-day search operation in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan without encountering al-Qaeda or Taleban militants.

A gun attack on Australian special forces last week sparked Operation Condor, in which British marines led a force of about 1,000 soldiers through the region north of the city of Khost.


Every time we go to somewhere in Afghanistan and we don't find al-Qaeda, then ... it's an indication of our success

Lientenant Colonel Ben Curry
Royal Marines

Military officials insist the operation was a success, but the troops only uncovered a few ammunition caches.

The most dramatic moment came on the eve of the withdrawal, when two rockets were apparently fired at British troops.

They flew over a forward operating base of about 50 soldiers and exploded harmlessly more than a kilometre away just before dawn on Wednesday, said Royal Marines spokesman Lientenant Colonel Ben Curry.

The troops did not look for the firing position and withdrew soon afterwards according to schedule.

"There was no contact with al-Qaeda and Taleban," said the marines' spokesman, adding that militants may have escaped into neighbouring Pakistan.

The coalition forces were "happy not to find them" as, he said, the absence of militants proved the success of coalition operations.


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