- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan U.S. bombers yesterday pummeled Kandahar, the Taliban's last stronghold, to open the way for tribal fighters preparing to storm the nearby airport.
Western allies, meanwhile, began joining a force of U.S. Marines that had been patrolling the surrounding desert.
Refugees who fled Kandahar for neighboring Pakistan said the attacks by B-52 bombers and other warplanes were heavy and relentless.
Fighters from Pashtun tribes were waiting out the heavy wave of bombardment before resuming an assault on the airport.
"We're not in any rush," said Mohammed Anwar, an ally of Gul Agha, the former governor of Kandahar whose fighters held positions on a strategic road between the city and Spin Boldak, another Taliban outpost.
Anti-Taliban forces claimed the bombing raids had mistakenly destroyed one of their headquarters in Afghanistan's mountainous east early yesterday, killing at least eight persons. U.S. officials had no immediate comment.
In the north, 82 Taliban fighters who had been holed up in a prison fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif emerged Saturday and surrendered, days after they took part in a bloody uprising against their Northern Alliance captors that claimed many lives, including that of a CIA agent.
Alliance soldiers forced the holdouts from their basement hiding place by pumping in water, said Dr. Arif Salimi, head of the local health office.
More than 1,000 U.S. Marines are stationed at a desert base about 70 miles southwest of Kandahar. A spokesman for the U.S. Marine task force said the patrols had no direct encounters with Taliban troops.
Another spokesman, Capt. Stewart Upton, confirmed that a small number of liaison officers from Britain, Germany and Australia were also at the base.
Maj. James Higgins, an intelligence officer for Task Force 58, which combines the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units with air and naval support, said the Taliban was facing "a lot of pressure, a kind of snake closing in on them."
As well as hitting positions around Kandahar in Afghanistan's south, air strikes pounded sites near Jalalabad. U.S. officials say both locations are potential hiding spots for prime terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and members of his al Qaeda network.
In the Afghan capital, Kabul, the Northern Alliance's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, told reporters he believed bin Laden was hiding in one of three provinces around Kandahar Uruzgan, Zabul or Helmand.
There were new claims that bombs inadvertently had fallen on an area held by anti-Taliban forces in the east. Local officials said U.S. warplanes made two bombing raids and destroyed a building used by anti-Taliban forces in the town of Agom, 15 miles south of Jalalabad.
Earlier, there were conflicting accounts about U.S. bombs hitting villages late Friday and Saturday in the same region.
Villagers said 150 to 250 civilians were killed and dozens of homes were flattened in the attacks. Provincial officials also said U.S. planes struck the villages, although they put the death toll at around 20.
A spokesman in Washington said U.S. planes attacked a nearby military target, but he denied any bombs hit the villages.
Thousands of people have fled Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movementt, in recent days, the U.N. refugee agency said yesterday.

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