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Bombing Continues in Tora Bora - 2001-12-13


U.S. warplanes Wednesday continued bombing attacks on suspected al-Qaida fighters in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, after they failed to surrender to anti-Taleban forces. There are conflicting reports as to why the surrender did not take place as expected.

American jet fighters and B-52 bombers streaked over the mountains and hills of Tora Bora Wednesday ,dropping at least seven bombs in a valley where some 1,000 fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden are believed to be holed up. The air attack came soon after the early morning deadline for their surrender lapsed. The surrender had been negotiated Tuesday by the regional commander, Haji Mohammed Zaman, one of three top anti-Taleban commanders in eastern Afghanistan.

It is unclear how many al-Qaida fighters had agreed to Mr. Zaman's surrender deal, which included a plan to hand them over to the United Nations. Mr. Zaman says the mostly Arab fighters offered to give themselves up Tuesday after relentless attacks by U.S. warplanes and anti-Taleban forces last week pushed them out of their mountain base in Tora Bora.

Anti-Taleban troops found large amounts of ammunition and weapons in the captured base, as well as more than a dozen Japanese cars and pick-up trucks used by al-Qaida and Taleban soldiers.

According to commander Zaman's deputy, Bandi Gul, Wednesday's surrender did not take place because two other area commanders, Haji Zair and Hazerat Ali, became embroiled in a bitter dispute. Mr. Gul says the dispute was about how the war booty of weapons and vehicles should be divided among the commanders. He says the two commanders opposed Mr. Zaman's surrender proposal and wanted to resume fighting.

But as soldier under the command of Haji Zahir, Mr. Gul insists there is no dispute. He says the surrender did not occur because al-Qaida fighters were never serious about surrendering in the first place. He says the al-Qaida fighters are deceitful. He says he is convinced they are using the surrender deal as stalling tactic while they hatch an escape plan into neighboring Pakistan.

But the United States may not let them escape so easily. It has vowed to pursue all al-Qaida members for however long it takes and bring them to justice.

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