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Afghanistan: U.S. Bombers Strike Al-Qaeda Sites in Tora Bora

Kandahar, 8 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Coalition and Afghan forces continue to battle Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region, as rival anti-Taliban leaders vie for control of Kandahar. An American B-52 bomber today targeted the mountain cave hideouts thought to shelter suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. U.S. fighter jets bombed Al-Qaeda positions in the area last night. Local militias exchanged fire today with Al-Qaeda fighters.

Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai today called on the Afghan people to capture bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and bring them to justice.

In Kandahar, no one faction has established control of the city since the Taliban yesterday agreed to hand over power to local leader Mullah Naqibullah. A spokesman for tribal chief Gul Agha says Agha has installed himself in the governor's mansion and has told Naqibullah to retreat or face attack.

Some Taliban fighters in Kandahar have disarmed, while others have reportedly fled the city with their weapons. In "The Washington Post" today, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the situation in Kandahar is a "bit untidy" and likened it to a "Wild West show."

In Kabul, a UN team has arrived to make arrangements for a multinational peacekeeping force to deploy in Afghanistan.

In other news, the foreign minister of the interim post-Taliban government in Afghanistan met in the Tajik capital today with President Imomali Rakhmanov. Abdullah Abdullah said his talks focused on the political and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

"We had detailed talks on the present situation of Afghanistan, on the political situation of Afghanistan, humanitarian situation, the recent agreements in Bonn, which was of course supported by the Tajik republic, other countries of the world community, as well as by the Afghan people. [We also talked] about the future of Afghanistan and other issues, the experience of the Tajik republic in creating a system and [using this experience] in restoring stability in Afghanistan."

Abdullah thanked Tajikistan for opening a border crossing today over the lower Pandj River to allow humanitarian aid to enter Afghanistan.

Tajikistan's Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations Abdul Rahim Rajabov said a convoy carrying some 200 tons of aid will head to Kabul tomorrow: "The basic purpose of the first caravan which will be sent through the lower Pandj port is to get familiar with the road situation. But in future, we will try to improve the way and increase the number of caravans and to deliver [even] in the current year materials needed by the Afghan people."

Rakhmanov pledged his full support for the interim Afghan government, due to take office on 22 December.