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Airstrikes Continue in Eastern Afghanistan - 2002-01-06


US warplanes continued to target suspected remnants of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network in eastern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and his Taleban sponsor Mohammed Omar remain a mystery.

Warplanes roared across the skies over Paktia province early Sunday morning, reportedly on bombing runs in pursuit of Al-Qaida members still believed to be hiding near the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan.

For the past four days, B-52 bombers and smaller jets have been targeting the mountains near the town of Khost after US special forces on the ground spotted Al-Qaida activity. The Pentagon believes members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization are trying to regroup and plan more attacks from their hideouts in Paktia province.

On Friday, a Green Beret soldier was killed after an exchange of fire in the area. The soldiers death was the first US military casualty by enemy fire since the war against terrorism in Afghanistan began in earnest in early October.

A local military commander, Kalem Khan, says Al-Qaida members have recently been seen moving in and out of Khost. "We know that Al-Qaida men have been moving back and forth from here to the mountains near the Pakistan border," the commander says. But he says he has no idea how big the group is.

But Mr. Khan says that Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has never been in the area with his fighters. On Thursday, the US launched a massive air strike on a compound near Khost after intelligence reports suggested that the world's most wanted fugitive was there.

Meanwhile, Taleban leader Mohammed Omar's apparent escape from the Baghran region in southern Afghanistan is frustrating authorities in Kabul. Interim government leader, Hamid Karzai, told reporters Sunday that he did not know where the fundamentalist cleric was. But he says anti-Taleban and government forces in the south are determined to arrest him as soon as he is located.

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