U-S forces have reportedly begun the ground phase of the military operation in Afghanistan, while warplanes continue to pound Taleban and suspected terrorist targets.
News reports quoting un-named U-S defense officials say a small unit of U-S Special Forces is already in southern Afghanistan - the Taleban heartland.
A senior commander of anti-Taleban Northern Alliance forces said a U-S team is also on the ground in northern Afghanistan - apparently on a mission of reconnaissance or intelligence gathering.
Thursday, U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon that air power alone can not really do sufficient damage - adding that warplanes can not "crawl on the ground and find people."
In another development, the Taleban ambassador to Pakistan -- Abdul Salam Zaeef -- said again that the Taleban will not hand over accused terrorist Osama bin Laden to the United States. He also denied any links between the Taleban and the US Anthrax scare. Contrary to earlier reports, he did not present any new peace plan.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted Taleban sources as saying a top aide to Osama bin Laden was killed when a grenade he was handling exploded. Taleban sources denied earlier reports that Abu Baseer al-Masri - an Egyptian - died in a U-S bomb attack on Sunday.
U-N officials say some 35-thousand Afghan refugees poured across the border near the Pakistani city of Quetta. The group is said to be the largest daily influx of refugees since the U-S led airstrikes began on October seventh.
The bombing is continuing today (Friday) with warplanes hitting targets in and around the capital Kabul, the southern city of Kandahar and Jalalabad to the east.
Witnesses in Kabul report several loud explosions within the city limits. They say one bomb hit a home, killing five members of one family.
Earlier, a Taleban spokesman (Abdul Hai Mutmaen) said the past 12 days of intense airstrikes on Afghanistan have killed between 600 to 900 people. The claim could not be independently verified. Secretary Rumsfeld says the Taleban claim is highly exaggerated.