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AFGHANISTAN - Dec. 9 - Tora Bora Bombed.

US warplanes drop powerful bombs on cave complexes in the mountainous Tora Bora region as tribesmen prepare a major ground assault in the area. US officials say they believe Bin Laden is in the area. US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers says: "We can't be sure, but we think we know" Bin Laden's approximate location. Anti-Taliban forces say about 2,500 of their men are being assembled for a new assault. Bin Laden appears ever more isolated after his Taliban protectors handed over Zabul Province to tribal elders. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said: "The rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan has totally ended". US and allied forces are also looking for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who disappeared since his followers surrendered in Kandahar on Dec. 7. US Vice Pres. Dick Cheney said: "The Taliban as an effective government has been destroyed". But the war, he added, was far from over. The Northern Alliance spokesman in Jalalabad Mohammad Amin said: "Osama himself has taken the command of the fighting".

Although tribesmen maintained that Bin Laden, with a $25m US bounty on his head, is hiding in Tora Bora's maze of tunnels and caverns, others in Kabul said he was more likely hiding out in the south of the country, where US officials believe Mullah Omar remains. On Dec. 10, a 15,000lb daisy-cutter bomb was dropped by parachute on the Tora Bora region from a heavy cargo aircraft. It destroyed everything within a 600-metre radius and was followed by furious exchanges of ground fire. Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said the aim of dropping such a large weapon was to cause the tunnels to collapse to bury the enemy or to drive them out, and undermine morale. Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said: "We assume we have substantially degraded his [Bin Laden's] ability to communicate with elements outside Afghanistan. He doesn't have a lot of good options left. The aim is to reduce his options as far as possible".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Dec 15, 2001
Words:337
Previous Article:ARAB-US RELATIONS - Dec. 13 - Pentagon Shows Bin Laden's Foreknowledge Of Sept. 11.
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