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A U.S. Army Green Beret was killed Friday by hostile fire and a CIA operative was seriously wounded near the area where an al-Qaida compound had been bombed hours earlier, U.S. officials said. Meanwhile, NBC News has learned that U.S. forces have taken into custody a top al-Qaida official believed to have been a senior figure in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist operations.
ARMY GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, who as head of Central Command leads the war effort in Afghanistan, said the soldier, a Green Beret who had been coordinating with “local tribal elements,” was killed by small-arms fire in a firefight with enemy forces in the Gardez area west of Khost.

The remains of Nathan Ross Chapman, the first U.S. soldier killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan, were returned to his home state of Washington on Wednesday. The Green Beret was a quiet professional “who just wanted to change the world,” his widow said.

A MEMORIAL SERVICE for Chapman, 31, was scheduled for Thursday, with burial to follow at Fort Lewis, Wash., on Friday.

His widow, Renae, spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time in a video interview set up by the Army.

She said that her husband went to Afghanistan with a full appreciation of the dangers awaiting him and a premonition that he might not come home alive.

“I asked him, ‘How important is it, do you want to go?’ and he said, ‘Yes, it is me, I have to go,”’ Renae Chapman said.

She didn’t know exactly what he would be doing and said to him, “That’s OK, our guys aren’t dying over there, we have 4,000 Marines over there ... you’ll come home.”

He told her, “Honey, there’s a 50-50 chance I’m not coming home,” then gave her a heart pendant that they broke so she could wear half. Then he left.

KILLED IN AMBUSH Chapman, a Green Beret communications specialist, died Friday when he was hit by small-arms fire in an ambush near the Afghan town of Khost. He and a CIA officer had been meeting with local tribal leaders. The CIA officer also was hit but is recovering from his wounds. Asked why her husband joined the Special Forces, she said, “That’s so easy. He had seen so much of the world ... for instance he called me on satellite phone and he said he sees women and children being beaten with sticks just for walking down the street ... and he wanted to fight against that.

“He gave everything he had, everywhere he was, to everyone he knew,” she said. “And he wanted to make everyone happy.”

Renae Chapman also remembered his love for his children, Amanda, 2, and Brandon, 1. “He never sat around. He was always, always doing something, taking them for a walk, giving them a bath, playing with them in the park,” she said.

A U.S. KC-130 refueling plane with seven Marines aboard crashed Wednesday near an airfield in Pakistan. Defense sources told NBC News that initial reports suggested there were no survivors.

THE KC-130 crashed into a mountain as it was making its landing approach near Shamsi, Pakistan, the U.S. Central Command said. The flight originated from Jacobabad, Pakistan, and was on a multistop mission.

Central Command did not describe the fate of the crew except to say that their names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Defense sources said on condition of anonymity that, based on initial reports, the seven Marines were feared dead.

The KC-130 is a $37 million plane routinely used by the Marine Corps for in-flight refueling of helicopters. It is also used for troop and cargo delivery, evacuation missions and special operations support. It carries a six-man crew of two pilots, a navigator, flight engineer, mechanic and loadmaster.

China is expected to have between 75 and 100 long-range nuclear missiles pointed at the United States by 2015, roughly quadruple the current number, according to a CIA report released Wednesday.

Many of those intercontinental ballistic missiles will be on mobile launchers, helping China maintain a nuclear deterrent against the vastly larger U.S. missile force, says the report, titled ``Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015.''

Echoing earlier intelligence estimates, the report also says North Korea and Iran will probably have long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States by 2015. These assessments have been used to justify U.S. plans for multibillion-dollar missile defense systems capable of shooting down a limited ICBM attack on the continental United States.

The report draws together information and analyses from the CIA and other U.S. intelligence.

Currently, China has about 20 silos with CSS-4 nuclear ICBMs capable of reaching the United States, the report says. It also has a few medium-range, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and probably one submarine from which to launch them.

The Chinese military is developing three new missile systems, all of which could be fielded by 2010, the report says. The Chinese may also be able to mount multiple-independent re-entry vehicles - MIRVs - on its older silo-based missiles. These enable a single missile to launch warheads at several targets, vastly increasing potential damage.

China sees an expanded ICBM force necessary to overcome a U.S. missile defense system, maintaining its ability to strike the U.S. mainland. This would provide a deterrent during a conflict over Taiwan. While U.S. officials insist the missile defense program is to defeat strikes by North Korea and other ``rogue'' nations, some of those proposed defenses might have been sufficient to shoot down all 20 Chinese ICBMs. Eighty missiles would be too many, however.

China also is expanding its short-range ballistic missile force, and will probably have several hundred by 2005, the report says. These are armed with conventional warheads which could be used to bombard Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.

North Korea, meanwhile, has halted missile flight-testing until at least 2003, although it continues to develop the Taepo Dong-2, a two-stage missile that would be capable of reaching the western United States. North Korea also probably has one or two nuclear weapons that could be mounted on those missiles, the report says.

Iran, meanwhile, might be able to test a long-range missile around 2005, the report says, but more likely won't have the capability to do so until 2010.

The report reflects some differences of opinion between U.S. intelligence agencies, with one unidentified agency arguing that Iran won't be able to test missiles able to reach the U.S. mainland even by 2015. Its projections also assume each country's political direction will not change significantly during the next 13 years.

Ongoing U.N. prohibitions prevent Iraq from importing most of the equipment and expertise it needs to create an ICBM, the report says, but if those were lifted, Iraq could rapidly develop such weapons with substantial foreign assistance.

Russia's strategic missile force will continue to get smaller, but Russia will still have far and away the largest nuclear missile inventory capable of hitting the United States

A Marine Corps helicopter carrying supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan crashed yesterday in the mountains south of Kabul, killing two Marines on board and injuring five others, the second deadly air crash for U.S. forces in the region in a little over a week, officials said.

The CH-53E Super Stallion, a heavy transport helicopter, went down around 8 a.m. local time, not long after taking off from the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. The helicopter flew about 40 miles south before crash-landing in the mountains, officials said. The victims' bodies were recovered, and surviving crew members were quickly evacuated by U.S. forces.

The Pentagon identified the dead as Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III, 26, a communications navigations systems technician from Wicomico County in Maryland; and Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan, 24, of Mendocino, Calif., a helicopter mechanic.

The injured were identified as Cpl. David J. Lynne, 23, of Charlotte, N.C., a crew chief; Cpl. Ivan A. Montanez, 22, of Royse City, Tex., a helicopter mechanic; Cpl. Stephen A. Sullivan, 24, of Pickens, S.C., a crew chief; Capt. William J. Cody, 30, of Old Bridge, N.J., a pilot; and Capt. Douglas V. Glasgow, 33, of Wayne, Ohio, a pilot. They were flown back to Bagram and then ferried by C-130 transport plane to an undisclosed U.S. base in the area.

All of the men were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, which is part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif.

Cohee, whom a former neighbor called a good kid, grew up in Mardela Springs, a town in Wicomico County, and joined the Marines after graduating from high school.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said there is no evidence that the helicopter, or another one that was flying nearby, came under hostile fire. "It appears to be, at the moment, a mechanical problem with the helicopter," he said yesterday.

"Your heart just breaks every time something like this happens," Rumsfeld said during his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

U.S. forces have suffered more fatalities this month than in any other since the Afghan campaign began in October. Seven Marines were killed Jan. 9 when a KC-130 refueler crashed into mountains in southwest Pakistan. An Army Special Forces soldier was killed Jan. 4 in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan.

The growing list of casualties reflects the fact that the fighting is not over despite the collapse of the Taliban regime and the rout of the al Qaeda network, and that U.S. troops face many dangers as they continue operations in and around Afghanistan.

U.S. officials did not identify what American forces were being resupplied by the helicopter that went down, but small groups of U.S. Special Forces are searching the country for Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and remnants of his al Qaeda network, as well as for intelligence that can be used to break up any planned terrorist attacks.

Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is using more American forces for such searches in areas where the United States is not getting cooperation from tribal leaders.

"We will use whatever we need to use to get that job done," he said.

"There are places where the local people were quite pro-Taliban, pro-al Qaeda," Rumsfeld added. "They're not willing to cooperate. So we've used Afghanistan troops from other parts of the country, to some extent, along with U.S. forces."

Asked if more Americans would be used, Rumsfeld said, "You bet. We're doing it now."