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Anti-Taleban Forces Intensify Search for Mullah Omar, Bin Laden - 2001-12-08


U-S and anti-Taleban forces in Afghanistan are intensifying their search for Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and fugitive terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

U-S Marines, carrying photographs of key members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network, are scouring the area near the southern city of Kandahar.

A Marine spokesman says the U-S forces are focusing on al-Qaida members and not ordinary Taleban fighters.

The Taleban abandoned Kandahar, its last major stronghold, on Friday, but the whereabouts of Taleban leader Mullah Omar remain unknown.

In eastern Afghanistan, U-S warplanes continued to pound suspected al-Qaida hideouts in the mountainous region of Tora Bora. Anti-Taleban fighters exchanged mortar fire with al-Qaida forces and searched for Osama bin Laden, who may be hiding with thousands of supporters in a complex of caves in the area.

U-S officials say the surrender of Kandahar leaves more resources available for the search for both Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

Meanwhile, Pashtun tribal factions jostled for control of Kandahar, and news reports say tribal leaders have claimed control of key parts of the southern city. Tribal leaders have set up a council to try to resolve their differences.

In another development, Pakistan said it has deployed additional troops and helicopter gunships along its border with Afghanistan to prevent Taleban or al-Qaida fighters from escaping.

Pakistani government spokesman General Rashid Quereshi announced the deployments, but did not say how many troops or helicopters were involved in the operations. He said he is confident that neither Osama bin Laden nor Mullah Omar have entered Pakistan.

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