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Bill Hemmer: Special Forces leaving Tora Bora?


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Another 25 al Qaeda fighters were brought to the airport in this southern Afghan city Friday, bringing to 62 the number of fighters currently being held there.

In eastern Afghanistan, CNN crews witnessed two convoys of U.S. Special Forces leaving the Tora Bora region.

CNN's Bill Hemmer is stationed with the U.S. Marines at the base in Kandahar. He filed this report on the day's developments.

HEMMER: I want to cover three things right now. First, Tora Bora. What we heard earlier in the day from our crews on the ground there, they indicated they spotted a couple of dozen U.S. Special Forces packing up and heading out in a rather large convoy, taking out equipment and supplies. It would lead one to believe that some aspect of the Special Forces are pulling out of Tora Bora, ending their operation there. It could be, however, that they're just packing up and moving to another location. The complete answer is a bit difficult to ascertain at this time.

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Back here in Kandahar, about 25 new detainees were brought in overnight and led into a detention compound. The sources at the base indicate to us that this latest group did again come from near the Afghan-Pakistan border. But when asked about nationalities, they would not confirm where they came from, only to say that al Qaeda and the network stretches into about 60 different nations around the world and some of these detainees came from a number of different locations.

Also, they say some detainees are willing to talk, but what they say is that they are "scared to death," in the words of one agent investigating here on the ground. The sources also say the ultimate question as to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden is still not confirmed, still no answer as to where the terror mastermind might be, whether he's dead or alive in Afghanistan or out of this particular country.

Also, more base news to talk about the Marines took this base about two weeks ago. Right now, it's about 1,800-strong on the Marine category. But overnight, it was a very long and loud night, with quite a few aircraft touching down, dropping off supplies for the U.S. Army. We do anticipate sometime in mid-January the U.S. Army to come here completely and relieve the Marines, take the airport and expand into a much greater area. Essentially, that will enable the U.S. military to open up the runway for more humanitarian aid and also for the eventuality of peacekeepers that will be arriving here in the future.




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