Efforts are now underway to identify the dead following a U.S. and NATO strike in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan over the weekend, according to Afghan officials.
ABC News reported a major strike may have targeted a high-value al Qaeda target in the village of Mano Gai in Kunar province.
The U.S. military on the ground in Afghanistan continues to officially deny there was anything other than "routine military operations" in the eastern province over the past three days.
But U.S. and Afghan government officials said over the weekend that an operation was taking place. They declined to identify who the operation was targeting but indicated they were after a "High Value Target" (HVT).
Official sources would not rule out that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden himself was the intended target. Afghan officials said the target could be another senior ranking al Qaeda leader.
Eyewitnesses to the bombing and follow-up ground assault on the compound in Mano Gai, near the border with Pakistan, said two or three massive bombs were dropped on the compound. They described scenes of fierce hand-to-hand combat between the ANA (Afghan National Army) and enemy combatants holed up inside the compound.
Afghan officials, who did not want to be identified, said the strike targeted a mix of foreign and Afghan militants loyal to al Qaeda and Hizbi Islami, or HIG, the extremist group headed by former fundamentalist prime minister Gulbuddhin Hecmatyar.
They say the compound belonged to a commander named Haji Aminullah, a HIG commander heavily tied to smuggling gems, timber and opium from the lawless Pesh Valley region of Kunar.