Anti-Taliban forces fire on possible bin Laden hideout
Wednesday December 5, 7:02 PM
KABUL/QUETTA (Reuters) - Anti-Taliban forces fired on suspected mountain lairs of Osama bin Laden in east Afghanistan on Wednesday as U.S. planes bombed the same targets.
"(U.S.) bombing continues," anti-Taliban commander Hazrat Ali told Reuters by satellite phone from Jalalabad in the east. "We have taken some areas which they (bin Laden's men) left around Tora Bora. They pulled out from these areas without a fight."
A Soviet-era Mujahideen tank was firing at positions being simultaneously bombed by U.S. planes at Tora Bora, about 55 km (35 miles) south of Jalalabad, CNN reported from the scene.
The ground attacks were being met by small-arms fire, it said.
Ali said on Tuesday U.S. air strikes had killed 12 members of bin Laden's al Qaeda network in the previous two days in or around his suspected underground hideout in Tora Bora.
There was no independent confirmation.
Pashtun tribal chief Hamid Karzai, the man named at talks in Bonn to head a post-Taliban government, told Reuters his men were on the outskirts of southern Kandahar, the birthplace of the hardline Islamic movement which swept to power in Kabul in 1996.
"We are continuing our movement towards Kandahar and let's hope we can be there as soon as possible," he added.
Karzai also said there were negotiations with some of the beleaguered city's defenders.
"Some Taliban officials are calling us. We're trying to give them as much time as possible. We want to prevent bloodshed," he said. "There should be no loss of life. Civilians should not suffer."
Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for former Kandahar mujahideen governor Gul Agha Sherzai, told Reuters by satellite phone from near the city's airport there had been no fighting since Tuesday.
"We are waiting to finalise a new strategy. There are a lot of villages neighbouring the airport region and we don't want to hurt those people," he said. "Maybe in one or two days we will attack from a different direction."
He said tribal fighters had captured some Taliban radios.
"We can hear (Taliban leader) Mullah Mohammad Omar all night... and all night Mullah Mohamad Omar is telling the Taliban to fight against Hamid Karzai, to try to ambush them."
The United States launched strikes on Afghanistan to flush out bin Laden, its prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and punish his Taliban protectors.
Karzai was speaking to Reuters minutes before a U.N. spokesman in Bonn announced that Afghan factions had chosen the him to head an interim Afghan administration.
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