Afghanistan: March 17, 2002


US military planners believed they had wiped out the core of al-Qaeda's military leadership during Operation Anaconda. Cracking open the caves on the Shah-I-Khot's "Whale" ridge resulted in a minor windfall of information.

After the combined Canadian-American battalion was landed on 13 March, they watched Al-Qaeda positions being bombed overnight before working their way up the slopes. The 3PCLI reconnaissance platoon led by CPT Ryan discovered the cave-and-bunker complex on 14 March. CPT Latinovich drew up the attack plan and laid it out for attached 10th Mountain officers. The Canadians then led the Americans across the bomb-shattered "Whale" to a point on the ridge 200 meters across from a rock feature where one bunker could be seen facing off to their left flank. US and Canadian forces were trying to seal a cave entrance when the three al-Qa'ida fighters emerged from another entrance and opened fire on the troops. The Canadians returned fire and killed the three. One had his head blown off.

Canadians and US troops then commenced searches that yielded ammunition caches, mortars and rockets, food, clothing and numerous sensitive documents in French and Arabic. Reconnaissance platoon SGT Torry White said "I think it went unexpectedly smooth".

Ten caves - some booby-trapped - had been searched by the 15th as part of Operation Harpoon. Terror manuals and bodies were found in some. DNA tests were being conducted on the terrorists' bodies, to determine if any senior leaders had been killed during the fighting. - Adam Geibel


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