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U.S. Troops Stage Raid

Afghanistan continues to be an unstable and dangerous place, both for the soldiers who are stationed there, and Afghanistan's own people.

As many as a hundred U.S. Special Forces troops raided a compound in eastern Afghanistan today, looking for attackers who killed an American soldier and wounded an Afghan soldier in an ambush on Sunday.

U.S. military spokesman Major Bryan Hilferty says troops staging today's raid found what he describes as "intelligence items" but did not find any al Qaeda or Taliban troops.

The body of Sgt. Gene Vance - who was killed in Sunday's raid - has been flown to a U.S. military base in Germany.

In Kabul, the United Nations says that a delegate to the electoral college that will choose members of Afghanistan's upcoming loya jirga - that is, tribal council - meeting was shot to death hours after he was selected.

Mohammed Rahim was slain in his home in Aodok, a village near Chaghcharan, the capital of central Afghanistan's Ghor province, late Sunday or early Monday, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said.

Rahim had been chosen Sunday in a local "shura" to be part of the electoral college that will choose regional delegates from its ranks for the loya jirga, or grand council, meeting next month. The loya jirga meets in Kabul to fashion a new national government.

There was no immediate evidence to tie the slaying to Rahim's selection, Almeida said. He had no information on possible suspects.

"We do not know the motivation of this murder. Of course, if there were to be a political motivation, it would be a matter of serious concern," Almeida told reporters.

If linked to the election process, it would be the first loya jirga-related death since the culling process began earlier this month, the United Nations said.

U.N. field representatives are stationed in the area of the slaying, Almeida said.

U.N. officials oversaw the meeting in Bonn, Germany, in December that drew up the process by which Afghanistan's interim government would be replaced by a transitional administration selected by the loya jirga. Almeida said the responsibility for investigating Rahim's death lies with Prime Minister Hamid Karzai's interim administration.

Meanwhile, the first phase of local selections for the loya jirga continued Tuesday. U.N. officials said 65 of about 380 districts still need to choose delegates for the second phase.

Some have expressed worry that local leaders or warlords are intimidating or bribing the local shuras to select delegates who will vote as they are told.

"There's been some coercion. There's no doubt about it. But it's not significant," said Civil Aviation Minister Zalmay Rasul, a longtime ally of former King Mohammed Zaher Shah.

He said most Afghans know the grand council meeting is a window of opportunity for their country.

"People understand the importance of this loya jirga," he said. "They realize their future is at stake."

In other war-related developments:

  • A law enforcement official says the Justice Department is preparing to give lie detector tests to hundreds of federal workers at two facilities where anthrax is stored, hoping to identify suspects in the letter attacks.
  • The head of the F-B-I says suicide bombings in public places will eventually strike the U-S. Robert Mueller says it's hard for authorities to infiltrate groups that would carry out such an attack.
  • Most apartment dwellers in the United States have received no direct notification of a recent F-B-I warning that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network had discussed the possibility of renting apartments with the intention of blowing them up. The warning cautions that the threat is unconfirmed.
  • Justice Department lawyers argued before a New Jersey appeals panel that releasing the names of those detained after September eleventh would threaten national security by identifying witnesses and other details of the government's terrorism investigation. The judges heard arguments over a lawsuit filed in January by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
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