- JALALABAD, Afghanistan (UPI)
- U.S.-backed Pashtun forces attacked Wednesday the suspected mountain
hideout of Osama bin Laden in eastern Afghanistan in an effort to capture
the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United
- Officials in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad said
hundreds of Pashtun fighters have already reached the Tora Bora cave and
tunnel complex where bin Laden and his lieutenants may be hiding.
- About 35 miles from Jalalabad, Tora Bora was built in
the 1980s with U.S. financial support as a hiding place for Afghans
the Soviet occupation army.
- Bin Laden occupied the caves in 1996 when he moved to
Afghanistan from Sudan and is believed to have further fortified the
- A tribal commander, Zaman Khan, who is leading the
forces looking for bin Laden in Tora Bora told journalists in Jalalabad
that his troops had occupied parts of the complex.
- "Osama's men had already pulled out of these caves
when our men arrived there," he said. "They have gone deeper
into the caves to avoid intensive U.S. bombings."
- U.S. forces have been bombing Tora Bora for almost a
week now to force bin Laden and his men out of their hideouts.
- The campaign to capture bin Laden intensified over the
weekend when CIA chief George Tenet visited the bordering Pakistani city
of Peshawar where he is believed to have met some Pashtun commanders now
participating in the operation.
- Two U.S. gunships and 60 commandos are also believed
to have reached eastern Afghanistan in the search for bin Laden.
- Pashtun commanders in Jalalabad said the Americans have
also asked them to repair the runway at the Jalalabad airport, damaged
during U.S. bombings last month when the Taliban still occupied the
- "The Americans apparently want to bring fixed-wing
planes for a possible evacuation of bin Laden and other suspected
said a local commander, Hazrat Ali.
- The airport already has arrangements for accommodating
gunships and helicopters.
- He said U.S. and British commandos were providing
support to hundreds of Pashtun fighters now in Tora Bora but are not
participating in the fight."
- Guided by satellite, U.S. and British troops are expected
to call in airstrikes as soon as they see bin Laden's men.
- Zaman Khan said that his attempts to persuade al Qaida
and Taliban soldiers to surrender had failed and his men were forced to
launch a strike. "As the first step toward forcing surrender, we are
severing their water sources. It is impossible survive in these
arid mountains without water."
- Afghan officials in Kabul have described the latest
against bin Laden as "the beginning of the end game for al
- Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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