Heavy fighting continues in eastern Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden's mountain hideouts are coming under both ground and air attacks.
Hundreds of anti-Taleban forces belonging to the so-called eastern alliance are attacking the caves of Tora Bora where several thousand fighters from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network are believed to be holed up. American jets are also pounding the mountains.
The commander of U-S operations in Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, said Friday that U-S special forces are working with both local anti-Taleban units and the Pakistani government to try to prevent al-Qaida's leaders from escaping over the border into Pakistan.
Alliance commanders said Friday it appears that the first line of defense of al-Qaida has crumbled. They say al-Qaida's fighters have abandoned their main caves and moved into smaller caves higher in the mountains.
A local Afghan commander (Hazrat Ali) tells Reuters (news agency) his forces captured a key al-Qaida base late Thursday -- but there was no sign of Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden or his followers. The commander says his troops captured weapons, vehicles and a number of Arab family members, including women and children.
Meanwhile in southern Afghanistan, U-S Marines have killed seven "enemy forces" near the city of Kandahar. A spokesman (Captain David Romley) told reporters fighting broke out late Thursday, when a "hunter-killer" team of patrolling Marines spotted three vehicles approaching them at high speed. The spokesman said the dead were either Taleban or al-Qaida fighters. He said there were no U-S casualties. It was the first known ground action conducted by U-S Marines since they set up the forward base in the region late last month.