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Brent Sadler: Resistance stiff at Tora Bora

Brent Sadler reports from the White Mountain Range of eastern Afghanistan.
Brent Sadler reports from the White Mountain Range of eastern Afghanistan.  

(CNN) U.S. military forces and members of the anti-Taliban Eastern Alliance have focused their offensive against Osama bin Laden and members of the al Qaeda network in the rugged mazes and underground complexes surrounding the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

CNN's Brent Sadler gave the following report from the White Mountains, near Tora Bora.

SADLER: Nightfall (has arrived) in the area of the White Mountains, not far from Tora Bora -- that cave and tunnel complex where it's thought that Osama bin Laden may be hiding.

Certainly we do know for a fact that Eastern Alliance forces, whose tanks are behind me, a T-55, have been engaging al Qaeda fighters in this area for the past two days. Now over the past 48 hours the T-55s have been pouring fire into suspected al Qaeda positions in the foothills of the Tora Bora area, and they've been having a degree of success.

I went on a somewhat hazardous road trip up the mountain several miles and saw some of the areas that the al Qaeda fighters had vacated. We saw some pickup trucks that had been camouflaged with mud -- they had been abandoned. Fighters on the ground with the Eastern Alliance said that they had captured them.

We saw inside those vehicles -- books, notebooks, textbooks, Korans, various clothing that they said the al Qaeda people had left behind in somewhat of a hurry. But this is by no means a hot pursuit by the anti-Taliban Eastern Alliance. They are having a really hard slog to try to push al Qaeda back up the mountains. There has been very close-quarter fighting; fierce fighting, and the Eastern Alliance say they have suffered a number of casualties. In fact, they say that some of their injured have been left in an exposed position and they can't recover those injured until after nightfall.

Earlier in the day, we saw continued air activity by U.S. warplanes; bombing of suspected al Qaeda positions, as the anti-Taliban forces moved slowly yard-by-yard up toward the top of the first ridge of mountains. Tora Bora is beyond the first ridge; even more inaccessible. It's not known just how many al Qaeda fighters are involved in this, but I'm certainly told that resistance is very stiff indeed.


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