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U-S General Says It Is Too Early to Claim Tora Bora Victory - 2001-12-16


The commander of U-S troops in Afghanistan says it is far too early to claim victory against al-Qaida terrorists, despite claims by a senior Afghan commander that a terrorist stronghold near Tora Bora is now under alliance control.

General Tommy Franks said alliance troops, backed by U-S air strikes and special forces, are making what he called cave-by-cave progress in Tora Bora but that it could be some time before the area is secured

The general also told A-B-C television that the hunt for Osama bin Laden is continuing.

Earlier today (Sunday), Afghan commander Haji Mohammad Zaman said Osama bin Laden may have fled to Pakistan after he and his al-Qaida terrorists were driven from the area following weeks of fighting and nearly continuous air strikes from U-S warplanes.

Commander Zaman estimates some 200 al-Qaida fighters have been killed in the latest fighting. Afghan militias backed by U-S warplanes and special forces entered the White Mountain range earlier this month to kill or capture al-Qaida terrorists and their leader.

In the past week, U-S officials said Osama bin Laden had been heard on short-range radio near Tora Bora, giving orders to his fighters. But the officials said they did not know his exact whereabouts.

Meanwhile, in southern Afghanistan today, at least three U-S Marines were injured when one of them stepped on a land mine at Kandahar airport. The incident occurred as the three were clearing the runway area of explosives.

U-S forces arrived at the airport Friday to remove land mines and other munitions so the facility can be re-opened for humanitarian and military use.

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