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U.S. forces, Eastern Alliance focus on mountains

Brent Sadler
Brent Sadler  

(CNN) -- Explosions and weapons fire echoed overnight as U.S. and Eastern Alliance forces assaulted Taliban and al Qaeda positions in the mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan.

CNN's Brent Sadler filed this report from the region.

BRENT SADLER: It has been another day of U.S. bombing in the lowland areas leading up to Tora Bora, but less intense, I would say, than it has been over the past few days. Strike planes hit their positions held by al Qaeda in what are thought to be caves and woodlands in the lower part of the mountains behind me.

Now it's been interesting that even though there has been one week, at least, of sustained and heavy U.S. air strikes in this area, al Qaeda has still been able to show its teeth, firing salvos of mortar rounds against positions of the Eastern Alliance.

In fact, the mortar rounds were targeting a road, the main road leading up to the valley, leading to where it's thought there was a concentration of al Qaeda forces with heavy weapons.

These mortar rounds were falling successively in one area, clearly trying to cut off the road -- and achieving that. Because very soon after that we saw a fallback of anti-Taliban Eastern Alliance troops coming back down from where they were trying to advance forward to, coming down along the road, coming back at nightfall.

And as I told you, now you can probably hear the rumble of T-55 tanks behind me. These have moved just 24 hours ago to a more forward position. They too now coming back, having been out of sight from this position for the past day or so.

Also today, we saw more activity from what we believe are forward air controllers moving about the area, coordinating U.S. air strikes. But as I said, (it's been) a less intense day in terms of U.S. air activity.

Other points of interest: Commanders of the Eastern Alliance on the ground here have reported intercepting radio traffic ... (in which) they heard al Qaeda fighters talking about how the "sheik" was. That's believed to be perhaps a reference to Osama bin Laden himself who could, of course, be directing these defensive operations by al Qaeda against the Eastern Alliance.

So it does seem that after a slow-moving assault against al Qaeda in this area in the lowlands of Tora Bora, for now, at least, that this offensive has stalled.


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