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U.S. bombers pound White Mountains



TORA BORA, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Round-the-clock bombing Sunday pounded the White Mountains of eastern Afghanistan as Afghan fighters, backed by U.S. air power and advisers, searched the ground for al Qaeda forces.

The bombs began falling shortly after daybreak, signaled by vapor trails of U.S. bombers streaking across the sky. The heavy bombing was followed by other explosions as smaller planes began attacking the rugged mountain targets.

Local commanders say al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden may be directing as many as 1,000 fighters to defend positions around Tora Bora, the site of extensive cave and tunnel networks.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the fighting around Tora Bora was "very, very fierce." But he could not confirm the claims that bin Laden had taken personal command of troops in the area.

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CNN's Brent Sadler reports al Qaeda fighters are no pushovers in the fight for Tora Bora (December 8)

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CNN's Miles O'Brien talks to Nic Robertson about the jockeying and concerns over who will control Kandahar (December 8)

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"Our latest information is, and has been for some time, that he's in this area, the so-called Tora Bora area," Myers said during an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "And they're in the hills with some other al Qaeda fighters, and they are fighting fiercely against opposition forces, some of our forces and some of our air attacks, trying to survive."

U.S. advisers are working with local Afghan commanders and guiding strike planes to targets in the mountain region, located near the Pakistani border, Myers said.

Farther south, in Kandahar, anti-Taliban tribal leader Gul Agha was tentatively named the new governor of Kandahar province -- a post he has held before, but the appointment must be ratified by Afghanistan's new interim government, which takes power December 22.

The city was relatively calm Saturday with crowds, armed tribal fighters and U.S. special forces on the streets. The U.S. forces were seen entering a building previously occupied by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban spiritual leader who surrendered control of the city last week.

"Soldiers will be in the streets for a while. You cannot avoid that. We have removed a major obstacle in Afghanistan," interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai told CNN.

"You will have for a while some chaos in Afghanistan. It's inevitable. We have to establish a fresh order and, until that comes, there will be here and then, some difficulty. But overall, things are very good," Karzai said.

Meanwhile, Karzai and Gul Agha said they are aiding in the search for Mullah Omar, the Taliban spiritual leader who disappeared after turning the city over.

Gul Agha said he thought Omar was in the mountains of Oruzgan province, northwest of the city. He vowed to pursue the mullah in the near future.

Karzai said he had asked his forces to search for Omar and arrest him.

"They must arrest him -- both Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar," Karzai said. "They're fugitives. They must be arrested and taken to court. they must face trial for so many crimes."

Myers said the situation in Kandahar remained unsettled as opposition forces worked to consolidate their control over the city, which the Taliban gave up Friday.

"There is still a lot of confusion, and there probably will be for several days to come," he told CBS. "It's not over there."

-- CNN Correspondents Brent Sadler and Nic Robertson and CNN Interactive writer Matt Smith contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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