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US Bombing Continues in Afghanistan; Taleban Vows to Defend Kandahar - 2001-11-17


U-S warplanes continue bombing the remaining Taleban-held positions in Afghanistan today (Saturday), as the fundamentalist Islamic movement vows to defend their southern stronghold Kandahar.

The Taleban says it has thousands of fighters ready to defend Kandahar from U-S and opposition Alliance forces in the area. Witnesses said some Taleban elements were leaving as U-S warplanes bombed the city today. But the Taleban insists it is in control of Kandahar and has dismissed as lies media reports saying otherwise.

On Friday, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted Taleban authorities as saying Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had agreed to withdraw from Kandahar and hand over control to local leaders.

U-S fighter planes also are attacking the Taleban's last northern stronghold, the city and province of Kunduz, as its provincial governor was negotiating surrender terms with the Northern Alliance.

Meanwhile, the Taleban envoy to Pakistan has refuted media reports quoting him as saying fugitive terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden has fled Afghanistan. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters at the Chaman border crossing he has no idea where Osama bin Laden is, only that the al-Qaida leader is still in Afghanistan.

An Associated Press employee in Afghanistan also says a Taleban member has confirmed that the movement's military leader Mohamed Atef was killed in a U-S air raid near Kabul several days ago. The Taleban has offered no proof to support the claim.

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