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More suspects detained as Marines prepare move to Kandahar airport

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. Marines prepared Thursday to move their operations from Camp Rhino to the Kandahar airport, U.S. military sources told CNN, as more detainees were brought in for questioning at the airport facility.

The Marines have spent a month at Camp Rhino, which they established at the initial forward operating base in southern Afghanistan. They were expected to shut it down in a few days and make the move to the logistically superior Kandahar airport.

In Washington Thursday, Pentagon officials said Thursday that U.S. B-52s and AC-130 gunships attacked the compound of the Taliban minister of intelligence near Ghazni, southwest of Kabul. Several people were believed killed in the Wednesday attack, officials said, but no victims' identities had been determined.

During Thursday's Pentagon briefing, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers declined to say whether the intelligence minister was killed in the attack.

"About all I can say is that we had very good indications that the compound was inhabited by Taliban leadership, and were confident enough and had watched it long enough that we felt we could strike it," he said.

The number of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members detained at the Kandahar airport rose to 37 early Thursday after another 20 men were brought in for questioning. They were led in with shackles to a detention facility at the airport.

Sources told CNN the group was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Lt. Col. Mark Faulkner, commander of the detainment facility, said all detainees are thoroughly searched, fingerprinted, and medically screened.

"Their clothes are removed. We check everything to ensure they're hiding nothing, because of lessons learned, that we've gained, from this conflict," Faulkner told CNN.

All detainees are given new clothes and blankets. They are also questioned exhaustively -- as much as 10 times a day -- so investigators can determine how much they know about al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership.

"We have experts in here that want to know anything they can about the affiliations of these individuals, who they're tied in with, what other information they may know about training facilities -- anything," Faulkner said.

Asked whether the investigators were successful in gathering information, Faulkner said, "I think that would be fair to say, and if not, then we wouldn't have a large concentration of individuals here."

A second facility that can hold several hundred detainees was completed Wednesday at the airport.

On Saturday, the arrival at the airport of one detained al Qaeda fighter sparked a rebellion among wounded prisoners being treated at a nearby hospital. Eight al Qaeda members remained holed up in the hospital Thursday, loaded with munitions, vowing not to be taken alive or surrender to U.S. forces.

Marines remained on heightened alert at the airport Thursday after officials said they received warnings of a possible threat during the holidays.

On Wednesday, Pentagon sources told CNN that the Marines would not join U.S. Special Forces troops assisting anti-Taliban Afghan fighters in searching the caves and tunnels in the Tora Bora region for any remaining Taliban or al Qaeda fighters.

CNN Correspondent Bill Hemmer contributed to this report.




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