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Bombing Aimed At Al-Qaida, Taliban Pockets in East

U.S. jets reportedly hit major stores of tanks and weapons around Khost, where al-Qaida and Taliban fighters are suspected of attempting to regroup.

“We’re not done there,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said today.

“Those who have dispersed, it would appear, are trying to get back together and regroup so that they can ascertain, do they have leadership, do they have mission, can they do operations,” Stufflebeem said at the Pentagon briefing.

Khost is known as the headquarters of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former minister in the ousted Taliban regime who is high on the U.S. most-wanted list.

“This is what you would call a relatively active area,” Stufflebeem said. “It previously had been a support haven of al-Qaida.”

Admiral Stufflebeem said 346 al-Qaida and Taliban fighters were now in U.S. custody, including some senior leaders. He would not say who they were, and would not discuss the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar, the Taliban supreme leader.

The commander of the U.S. war effort, General Tommy Franks, said there was evidence Osama bin Laden had recently been in the caves of Tora Bora, but he told the Associated Press that the search was ending without clues to bin Laden’s current whereabouts. Instead, the effort will focus on wiping out the remaining patches of al-Qaida and Taliban support.

14-year-old suspect may have fled

Afghan tribal leaders said today that a 14-year-old boy may be responsible for the death of Army Special Forces Sgt. Nathan Chapman. The elders from the Khost region hoped to hand over the teen-ager to the U.S., but say they no longer know his whereabouts.

Chapman, who was killed in a gunfight on Friday, is the first U.S. soldier reported killed by enemy forces in the military campaign. His remains will arrive in the United States tomorrow.

Stufflebeem said an investigation is under way to determine who is responsible for the killing.

“We are tying to determine what happened, so we can prevent something like this from happening again,” he said. “It most definitely was an ambush.”