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Report from Tora Bora: Bombing Intensifies Against al-Qaida - 2001-12-13

In eastern Afghanistan, the United States has intensified its bombing campaign in pursuit of al-Qaida fighters hiding in the hills of Tora Bora.

The bombings followed the collapse of a cease-fire, the second in less than 48 hours, between al-Qaida and anti-Taleban forces.

The U.S. bombing attacks in Tora Bora Thursday were among the fiercest in the war against terrorism. Shortly before dawn, a U.S. war plane was believed to have dropped a 15,000 pound "daisy cutter," the largest conventional bomb in the U.S. arsenal, on a suspected al-Qaida site in a mountain canyon. Waves of fighters and bombers followed throughout the day, dropping ordnance with enough explosive power to shake the surrounding hills.

As many as 1,000 al-Qaida fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden had been trapped in the canyon for the past three days, after U.S. air strikes and advancing anti-Taleban troops forced them Tuesday to abandon one of their main mountain military bases and flee into the hills.

One of the three top regional military commanders, Haji Mohammed Zaman, immediately negotiated a cease-fire with the Taleban fighters and issued a Wednesday morning deadline for their surrender. The deadline was then extended until noon local time Thursday.

But the two other commanders called off the cease-fire shortly before the second deadline, saying that some senior al-Qaida members were using the cease-fire to escape into Pakistan.

Commander Hazarat Ali told reporters that his troops were going back to the front to resume fighting. He says nothing will stop the assault on al-Qaida this time, unless they hand over Osama bin Laden and surrender their weapons. Asked if he knew where Osama bin Laden Might be, Mr. Ali said he did not know for sure but he hoped the Saudi-born fugitive was still in the area so that, in his words, he could be annihilated with the rest of al-Qaida. It is also not yet known if the bombs have killed any of the al-Qaida fighter.