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US Forces Pound Kandahar, Deny Fighter Plane Shot Down - 2001-12-01


U.S. bombers have stepped up air attacks on the Taleban's last stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, and anti-Taleban forces reportedly are advancing on the city. U.S. military officials have denied Taleban claims that they shot down an American fighter plane over the city.

U.S. warplanes have continued to pound Taleban targets and suspected al-Qaida hideouts around Kandahar. Witnesses have been quoted as saying panic has gripped the city as U.S. B-52 bombers mounted heavy raids throughout the night.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials have denied a Taleban claim that a U.S. warplane was shot down, saying all U.S. aircraft are accounted for. The former Taleban ambassador in Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, has been quoted by the Afghan Islamic Press as saying Taleban fighters shot down a plane during Saturday's heavy U.S. bombardment south of Kandahar airport.

The Taleban is under increasing pressure in its last stronghold. Reports say anti-Taleban forces are closing in on Kandahar, while at a desert airstrip southwest of the city, more than 1,000 U.S. marines are waiting for orders in the war against the Taleban. So far, they have stayed out of the conflict.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has vowed not to surrender. He has told his forces to fight to death to defend Kandahar.

U.S. aircraft also pounded Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan. It is reported that hundreds of members of the al-Qaida network are hiding in mountain caves.