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Jim Clancy: Targeting al Qaeda in Tora Bora

CNN's Jim Clancy
CNN's Jim Clancy  

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Supported by U.S. bombing runs, anti-Taliban ground troops blasted away Wednesday at the Tora Bora foothills south of Jalalabad in an attempt to dislodge al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. These targets, possibly including suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, are believed to be hiding in the region's underground tunnels and caves.

CNN's Jim Clancy filed the following report from the Afghan capital, Kabul:

CLANCY: There is believed to be a very fierce battle shaping up south of Jalalabad in the east of Afghanistan in the White Mountains. Tora Bora is an area where the U.S. and local commanders believe there is a network of caves and reinforced tunnels. They are used by al Qaeda fighters. Is Osama bin Laden among his supporters there? No one knows the exact answer to that question.

Still, the fight appears to be moving forward in earnest. Tanks have been moved up there. CNN's Brent Sadler reported that journalists have been cleared out of that area as the battle shapes up. U.S. airstrikes are also being used.

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It's unclear whether there's direct coordination, but according to Sadler, both the local fighters on the ground and the U.S. bombers in the skies above appear to be pinpointing the very same targets.

How easily this may fall, no one knows exactly. But clearly the noose is tightening as the Pentagon and others have been saying for some time.

CNN: We hear reports that some massive troop movements are taking place there -- some 2,000 to 3,000 mujahedeen have moved into that region. What are you hearing?

CLANCY: What we're hearing is basically what we're getting from Brent Sadler and others right on the scene. It appears that knowing that the al Qaeda fighters are in one specific area, the local commanders are now moving their troops into position. Earlier those local commanders had reported that the al Qaeda fighters had actually withdrawn from some positions, perhaps looking for some better defensive area to take up new positions.

Now those local commanders have begun bringing in their fighters once again, narrowing the area where it is believed that the al Qaeda supporters are located. There had been reports within the last 24 hours that some senior members of the al Qaeda organization had been killed in U.S. airstrikes. So we're continuing to monitor that situation.


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