U.S. targets Taliban's last stronghold
By Nic Robertson and Christiane Amanpour
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. planes struck Kandahar and its surroundings Thursday after a day and night of some of the most intense bombardment against the city so far, sources inside Kandahar told CNN.
The mood inside the city was tense after a man suspected of aiding the United States was hanged Wednesday, sources told CNN.
Taliban sources said the Afghan man was hanged in Shahideen Chowk, the main square. The Taliban believed the man was using a global positioning system to help U.S. forces. His body was still hanging in the square a day later as a "reminder" to the people of Kandahar, the sources said.
Meanwhile, an opposition leader denied that anti-Taliban forces were moving into the city, the Taliban's lone remaining stronghold.
Hamad Karzai, a Pashtun leader in southern Afghanistan, said Thursday that his troops are positioned outside Kandahar but have not entered the city. He said he had spoken with his military commander within the hour.
At dusk Thursday in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, where the Taliban have agreed to relinquish control, negotiations were stalled between the Taliban and two Pashtun tribal leaders, CNN's Nic Robertson reported from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Neither tribal group wants to share power with the other, though the Taliban want to surrender control to both, according to Pakistani officials. The stalemate put the talks in danger of being suspended or called off. U.S. military officials said Wednesday their bombing campaign is focused on targets around Kandahar as well as other locations in eastern Afghanistan.
About 800 Marines are now stationed at a base south of Kandahar to further intensify the effort, the Pentagon said.
Speaking in Kabul, Northern Alliance Defense Minister Gen. Fahim said the increased number of U.S. troops in the area was building pressure on the Taliban.
Fahim said that he believed both Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, would eventually be captured.
"Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden have lost their regular forces," Fahim told CNN.
"They move very secretly and travel from one place to another very secretly. If Kandahar and suburbs are captured, it's my strong opinion that Osama and Omar will be arrested."
Fahim and the Northern Alliance's chief intelligence minister said they had no information about an al Qaeda operative being captured by anti-Taliban forces, as reported Thursday in the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper said Ahmed Omar Abdel Rahman, 35, a high-profile figure in bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan, was seized by the Northern Alliance and being held in an undisclosed location.
The top Northern Alliance officials told CNN they had no information on such a capture, but that it was possible he was taken in another part of the country and the information simply had not filtered through yet to senior ministers.
Rahman is the son of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric convicted in the 1995 conspiracy to blow up New York landmarks.
In the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, negotiations for the Taliban to turn over the town to tribal leaders remained stalled Thursday over which of two Pashtun tribes would gain control.
Neither group wants to share power with the other, though the Taliban want to surrender control to both, according to Pakistani officials.
The stalemate put the talks in danger of being suspended or called off.
Omar urges forces
Mullah Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, delivered a radio address Wednesday in which he told the Taliban to be firm and not give any more territory away.
He called on those under his command to stiffen their resolve.
The Taliban also said Thursday they are advancing on and attacking the town of Tahtapol, on the road between Kandahar and the Chaman border crossing.
Taliban sources also told CNN an Afghan man was hanged Wednesday in Shahideen Chowk, the main square in the center of Kandahar.
The Taliban had accused him of having a global positioning system and said he was suspected of assisting U.S. forces.
The man's body was still hanging in the square a day later as a "reminder" to the people of Kandahar, the sources said.
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