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Afghan refugee horror
By Aaron Wherry
While the military campaign in Afghanistan continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in squalid conditions inside the war-torn country.
In Wednesday's worst incident, four Afghans, including a four-year-old girl, were trampled to death in a stampede for food at a refugee camp in Western Afghanistan.
"I'm happy for her because she died quickly," said the girl's mother. "What is the use of living like this?"
The camp at Maslakh is already home to about 100,000 displaced Afghans. The camp has been unable to accommodate recent arrivals, thousands of whom have gathered in a nearby field ringed with human waste.
A UNICEF report released Monday estimated up to 100,000 children in camps and cities inside Afghanistan could die of cold, disease and hunger if essential relief supplies are not made available in the next few weeks.
United States officials now claim to have killed many of al-Qaida's senior leaders, but news of such success was dampened by confirmation of the first American killed in action since bombing in Afghanistan began Oct. 7.
The U.S.-led air strikes continue to target al-Qaida and Taliban leadership and officials now believe more than half a dozen of Osama bin Laden's most senior leaders and several hundred of his most loyal fighters have been killed.
Thousands of al-Qaida fighters are still alive in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"The question is 'What's the depth of their bench?' and we don't know," said Daniel Benjamin a former National Security Council staffer and terrorism expert now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While al-Qaida communications have been hampered, American officials believe many of their forces may still be able to carry out previously planned terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann became the first American killed in combat during the military campaign in Afghanistan.
Spann was killed during a prison riot in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. U.S. officials recovered his body Wednesday, but provided no details on the circumstances of Spann's death.
Red Cross workers spent Wednesday removing bodies from the fort, where alliance officials have said as many as 450 Taliban fighters may have been killed during three days of fighting.
Many of the dead Taliban were found with their arms bound by black scarves, but one northern alliance general maintained his men had committed no atrocities.
"We behaved brotherly with them," he said. "We treated prisoners according to human rights."
with files from Associated Press and Canadian Press