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Father: 'He's a hero to me'

Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann in a family photo  

(CNN) -- The father of a Central Intelligence Agency officer killed in the Taliban prison riot said his son is "a hero to me."

The CIA said Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann, 32, was in a fortress compound at Mazar-e Sharif on Sunday to question Taliban prisoners when fighting broke out. Spann was the first U.S. combat death in the war on terrorism.

Johnny Spann said his son joined the CIA after service in the Marines because "he felt he would be able to make the world a better place to live in."

"We recall him saying, 'Someone has got to do the things that no one else wants to do,' and that's what he was doing in Afghanistan," his father said.

Mike Spann is survived by his wife, two daughters and an infant son. (Full story)

The prisoner rebellion in which Spann died ended Tuesday when Northern Alliance forces toppled a building where Taliban fighters were holed up. Red Cross officials said some of the fighters were alive beneath the rubble. (Full story)

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman John Stufflebeem said U.S. warplanes struck cave and tunnel complexes around Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, as well as targets around Kandahar Tuesday, in an effort aimed at "breaking the chain of command" of the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist network. The airstrikes continued Wednesday, but details of the attacks were not announced.

Stufflebeem released video from a B-1 and F-16 raid Tuesday that struck what he said was a Taliban leadership compound southeast of Kandahar. About 10 bombs were dropped, destroying two buildings.

Pentagon sources said the strike against the compound was ordered shortly after intelligence reports said Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was there. Stufflebeem, however, would not speculate on whether Omar was inside. "We're confident that it was Taliban leadership," he said.

On Wednesday, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, said Omar was safe and unharmed. He spoke to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) and confirmed his statement to CNN. (Full story)

CNN's Brent Sadler looks at the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad, where many al Qaeda training camps were once based (November 27)

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CNN's Jim Bittermann reports on talks in Germany among various representatives of the Afghans who hope to rebuild their homeland (November 27)

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Latest developments

• The Pentagon announced Wednesday that a bundle of humanitarian relief supplies dropped in Afghanistan hit a house, killing a woman.

• About 20 to 25 U.S. Army soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division are inside northern Afghanistan at an airfield near Mazar-e Sharif, where they will serve as a "quick reaction force," U.S. defense officials said.

• FBI scientists plan to open the anthrax-filled letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy on Friday. The scientists practiced different ways of opening it this week before deciding on the best way to proceed. Authorities want to preserve as much of the anthrax spores as possible for their research.

• In Koenigswinter, Germany, the two largest delegations at a conference on Afghanistan's political future have agreed on a transitional council that would set up an interim government, but they remain at odds on security measures that would have to come first, sources in the meeting said. (Full story)

• The Bush Administration announced Wednesday it had reached a $ 428 million contract to purchase about 155 million doses of smallpox vaccine, a move that will expand the national stockpile to cover the entire U.S. population. There are no plans to enact any sort of massive immunization program, but the administration wants to boost the stockpile in case of an outbreak. (Full story)

• The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee took up the thorny issue of post-September 11 civil liberties, in advance of Attorney General John Ashcroft's appearance before the committee next week. The committee's hearing on Wednesday focused on President Bush's executive order establishing military tribunals to try suspected terrorists, the detention of more than 1,000 people since September 11, and a Bureau of Prisons order which authorized eavesdropping on attorney-client communications. (Full story)

• Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta says a 60-day deadline for airports to screen all checked baggage for explosives will not be met. The deadline was included in the airport security legislation signed into law by President Bush last week. (Full story)

• Negotiations for the Taliban to turn the border town of Spin Boldak over to Pashtun tribal officials are reaching an advanced stage, Pakistani officials said Wednesday, but appear stalled on which tribe will gain control.

• The Taliban's Zaeef said Wednesday that Osama bin Laden is not in Taliban-controlled territory and that his whereabouts are unknown. On Tuesday, U.S. commander Franks said his forces are focusing on two areas in Afghanistan as they search for bin Laden and his allies: Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south. (Full story)

• A county magistrate judge denied bond Wednesday for a Georgia couple charged with insurance fraud for allegedly trying to cash in on the September 11 attacks. The Pike County Sheriff's Department arrested them Monday after investigators said Charles Allen Gavett, 44, had falsely reported the death of his wife, Cynthia S. Gavett, 40, in the terrorist attacks in New York City. (Full story)


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