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50 bin Laden fighters caught in combat.

ABOUT 50 al Qaida fighters hiding in eastern Afghanistan's White Mountains have been captured during heavy combat but there is still no sign of Osama bin Laden, US military officials said today.

It is estimated that between 300 and 1,000 al Qaida fighters are trapped in two parallel valleys near Tora Bora, and a tribal fighter said 300 al Qaida were ready to surrender.

Commanders of the Afghan forces said they believe bin Laden could be trapped in the cave complex but US Army General Tommy Franks said the military was not certain.

The Afghan Islamic Press, a Pakistan-based news agency, also quoted unidentified sources in the eastern city of Jalalabad as saying bin Laden had left Tora Bora on November 25 or 26 for an unknown location.

Afghan ground forces were supported throughout last night by US warplanes which dropped more than 200 bombs on caves and tunnels.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Afghan forces were making remarkably quick progress against al Qaida fighters in the valleys, and there were not a lot of ways out.

Gen Franks told reporters that al Qaida members were scattered on valley floors, in fortified mountain caves and along high ridges.

Two US soldiers were reported to have been slightly injured in the fighting as they battled to take an al Qaida machine-gun replacement.

Meanwhile a British military team was today arriving in Afghanistan for talks over peacekeeping deployments with the country's new administration.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 15, 2001
Words:243
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