U-S warplanes are bombing a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan where military officials believe Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida forces may be trapped.
American Special Forces and Afghan anti-Taleban fighters are moving toward the same area, in the White Mountains near Tora Bora.
Military officials say al-Qaida fighters are operating in a shrinking amount of space. A senior U-S official says Osama bin Laden is believed to be somewhere in two parallel valleys (Wazir and Agam) that straddle the Afghan-Pakistan border. The official, who asked not to be identified, says al-Qaida fighters are blocked on one side by Afghan tribal forces, and on the other by Pakistani troops (along that country's border).
The official says U-S authorities are convinced Osama bin Laden is in the area because of the fierce resistance by al-Qaida fighters, sightings reported by anti-Taleban commanders, and other unspecified intelligence information.
However, the Afghan Islamic Press quotes what it calls informed sources as saying the Saudi-born fugitive left the area late last month for an unknown location.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cautioned Thursday that many al-Qaida fighters may have managed to slip across Afghanistan's porous border into Pakistan. In southern Afghanistan, meanwhile, U-S Marines swept into Kandahar's airport by ground and in helicopters early today, and are working to clear the area of land mines and other explosives. The forces reported no resistance during the operation.
Officers say humanitarian and military flights could being operating in a day or two, once debris is cleared.
The airport is among the targets hit hard by U-S planes in recent weeks.
The Marines say they will use only a part of the airport, and return the rest to civilian control.