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Taleban Holds Out In Two Cities; Bin Laden Said To Be Near Pakistani Border - 2001-11-19


U-S warplanes bombed the Taleban's last two strongholds of Kunduz and Khandahar Sunday amid reports that Osama bin Laden is hiding in southeast Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.

A minister of the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance,Younis Qanooni, says he has information Osama bin Laden is in Maruf, a town about 130 kilometers east of Kandahar and just 50 kilometers from Pakistan.

A British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, said Sunday that U-S and British special forces have Mr. bin Laden trapped in an 80-square kilometer area southeast of Kandahar.

The Afghan Islamic Press has quoted the Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan (Abdul Salam Zaeef) as saying he does not know where Mr. bin Laden has gone, or if is still in Afghanistan. The ambassador said Mr. bin Laden is not in any area under Taleban control.

Meanwhile, reports from Kunduz say Taleban leaders have offered to surrender the city if alliance commanders guarantee that non-Afghan Taleban allies will not be killed, and if the surrender is witnessed by U-N observers. Alliance leaders have not commented publicly on the surrender offer.

Clouds of smoke and debris shrouded the battered city Sunday, as waves of huge U-S B-52 bombers and fighter jets repeatedly struck Taleban targets.

Earlier, refugees fleeing the city said some hardline foreign militants -- including Arab, Pakistani and Chechens fighting alongside the Taleban -- had already killed dozens of Taleban soldiers who were trying to surrender.

Taleban forces also continue to hold Kandahar, their last stronghold in southern Afghanistan and home base of their leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Witnesses reported seeing some Taleban fighters fleeing Kandahar Sunday. But the Taleban dismisses as lies reports that Mullah Omar plans to surrender Kandahar soon to Pashtun tribal leaders.

American warplanes began bombing Taleban and al-Qaida targets in Afghanistan on October seventh in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States.

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