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Seven fighters captured; 30 more head to base in Cuba

Marines watch the perimeter at the Kandahar airport

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- American troops captured seven more prisoners Tuesday, while 30 more detainees bound for a naval base in Cuba left the country without incident, military officials said Tuesday.

The seven captives did not appear to be of senior rank, officials said.

It was not clear if the new prisoners were al Qaeda or Taliban, but Pentagon sources said they were captured in eastern Afghanistan, where defense officials believe perhaps hundreds of al Qaeda members are still at large.

Meanwhile, 30 more detainees left on a cargo plane for the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There already are 50 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters at the installation.

CNN's Bill Hemmer rides with the U.S. military on a daytime reconnaissance patrol in southern Afghanistan (January 15)

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Four Americans who lost loved ones September 11 travel to Afghanistan to meet with victims of the war on terrorism. CNN's Michael Holmes reports (January 15)

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Photographs of the Marines killed in Wednesday's plane crash in Pakistan.

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Caves found, blasted

In a related development, Marines uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition hidden in caves and tunnels near their compound at the airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

They discovered the ordnance Tuesday after spotting several intruders inside the airport's security perimeter, officials said. The cave and tunnel openings were about 1,000 yards away and under some houses. Rocket-propelled grenades, mortar fuses and ammunition were found inside, officials said.

The Marines blasted the openings.

The United States is holding hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Kandahar International Airport. The caves were discovered in the same area where machine-gun fire was reported Thursday after the first planeload of detainees took off for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In Washington, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Tuesday that American Taliban fighter John Walker would be brought back to the United States to stand trial on multiple charges, including conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad.

The charges do not carry the death penalty, but if convicted, Walker could be sentenced to life in prison. Aschroft said additional charges could also be filed. (Full story)

Latest developments

• New guidelines have been issued to airlines on how to meet Friday's congressional mandate that all checked bags be screened for explosives, a Department of Transportation spokesman confirmed Tuesday. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is expected to outline the guidelines in a speech Wednesday to the Transportation Research Board. (Full story)

• A group of amphibious assault ships carrying 2,000 Marines has arrived in the Arabian Sea, Pentagon sources said Tuesday. The task force, headed by the USS Bonhomme Richard, will eventually replace the USS Peleliu and its complement of Marines. For the time being, there will be three amphibious ready groups in the region.

• It will cost roughly $15 billion to rebuild Afghanistan, according to a preliminary assessment by the United Nations, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Japan will host a conference next week at which various countries are expected to announce their financial commitments.

• U.S. officials said Tuesday they were investigating reports that a U.S. citizen had been kidnapped and was being held hostage in Afghanistan. Pentagon sources said the man -- Clark Russell Bowers -- flew from Istanbul, Turkey, to Kabul, Afghanistan, and called his wife to tell her he had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom. A State Department official said the department is taking the matter "very seriously," but another U.S. official said information on the case is "spotty." (Full story)

• Representatives of city governments met Tuesday with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to ask for federal aid to boost security. A survey by the National League of Cities shows security measures taken since September 11 have increased cities' and towns' expenditures by 4 percent, while their revenues have decreased 1.5 percent.

• British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday that U.K. citizens captured in Afghanistan must be treated according to international law. British officials said three of their citizens are being held at Guantanamo Bay (Full story)

• The FBI and U.S. Postal Service are expected to announce Wednesday they're increasing, to $2.5 million from $1.25 million, the reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons behind the anthrax-laced letters mailed last fall. Officials said they hope they will get new leads in the investigation, which has failed to find out who sent the letters that caused five deaths.

• Japan is expected to contribute a massive aid package to Afghanistan, as the war-torn central Asian country teeters on the edge of formal bankruptcy. (Full story)




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