WASHINGTON – The U.S. military expects to find former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province sometime soon, senior defense officials have told Fox News.
The province was the site of Monday's U.S. air assault on the Afghan village of Kakarak that residents say killed 44 civilians.
Afghanistan's foreign minister said Tuesday he believes Usama bin Laden and Omar are still alive.
"Our general impression is that Usama bin Laden and his friend [Mullah Omar] are alive," Foreign Minister Abdullah told reporters at a news conference.
Omar was born near Deh Rawud in Uruzgan province and Afghan officials have said the one-eyed former leader may be hiding in the area.
"The American special forces are in Uruzgan in pursuit of Mullah Omar who is believed to be here," Raaz Mohammad, an official in the governor's office in the provincial capital of Tarin Kowt, told Reuters.
"Mullah Omar is not from here, but a long time ago he was in the Des Rawat mosque," Noor Mohammed, leader of neighboring Gujran district, said in a telephone interview. "It is possible that some Taliban commanders may be hiding in the mountains around, but we haven't seen anyone."
An Afghan and U.S. team arrived at Kakarak to investigate the reports of civilian deaths. Tayyab Jawad, a spokesman for newly elected President Hamid Karzai, said the Afghan fact-finding mission would also go to nearby Des Rawat, where Omar once preached. Des Rawat, like Kakarak, is surrounded by rugged peaks.
A cache of weapons, most of them Soviet and Chinese made, were found by U.S. forces in Des Rawat, a day before the assault on the village, Col. Roger King said at Bagram. However, he denied Omar was a target.
Abdullah said the Afghan government had "no doubts" that U.S. forces on Monday were "targeting terrorists" and had received information that Al Qaeda forces were in the area.
Fox News' Andrew Hard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bret Baier currently serves as FOX News Channel's (FNC) chief political anchor and anchor of Special Report with Bret Baier(weeknights at 6-7PM/ET), the highest-rated cable news program in its timeslot and consistently one of the top five shows in cable news. Based in Washington, DC, he joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau.