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Number of detainees doubles at Kandahar airport

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- More al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners arrived at Afghanistan's Kandahar International Airport, doubling the number of detainees under a Marine guard that is preparing to transfer the facility to the control of the U.S. Army.

The handful of new arrivals joined 63 other prisoners who had been brought to the airport earlier in the day. Details on the latest group, including the exact number, are to be released Sunday, according to CNN reports.

Sources said that the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, would move into the airport sometime in January, but no official word has been issued.

The 101st -- the "Screaming Eagles" -- conducted the deep assault into Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.

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Advance army troops began arriving at the airport this week to begin preparations. The airport is expected to host the arrival of humanitarian aid and possibly peacekeeping forces.

The 63 detainees that arrived overnight bought the total number to 125. Twenty-nine of the new arrivals had combat-related injuries, and 16 more were suffering from serious illnesses such as diabetes.

The Marines told CNN the Kandahar detention center is now at about one-third of its capacity. The detainees at Kandahar are a small number of the up to 3,000 Taliban or al Qaeda being held at 30 locations around Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is considering where to take the detainees, whom the FBI is questioning about al Qaeda operations and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been ordered to prepare for some of the detainees. Other options include ships at sea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this week described the Guantanamo naval station as the "least worst place" to house the detainees as the military and law enforcement decide what to do.

U.S. Special Forces and Afghan troops continued to search the caves of mountainous east Afghanistan for bin Laden amid increasing reports that the al Qaeda leader may have escaped to Pakistan. No confirmation of those reports was forthcoming, and President Bush insisted Friday that bin Laden eventually would be brought to justice.

The Special Forces soldiers didn't want to be photographed, said CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers, who was asked Saturday to leave a ridge where he was monitoring troop movements. He said the soldiers' routine was to head into the mountains in the morning, then return to their base camp by nightfall.

A U.S. B-52 flew over the area Saturday, but dropped no bombs, the first time a strategic bomber had flown over Tora Bora in two days, Rodgers said.




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