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U.S. Continues Hunt for Osama bin Laden

U.S. warplanes dropped a 15,000-pound “daisy cutter” bomb Sunday near the Tora Bora cave complex where some think bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders may be hiding, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem confirmed during Monday’s Pentagon press briefing. The “daisy cutter,” known for its destructive power, has only been used a handful of times since the operation in Afghanistan began Oct. 7.

Stufflebeem and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the battle between Afghan opposition soldiers, supported by U.S. airpower, and al-Qaida forces continued through Monday.

Earlier today, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said “hard core” al-Qaida fighters were mounting intense resistance to the strikes.

In the meantime, Marines in southern Afghanistan continued their search for Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who the U.S. accused of harboring bin Laden and his associates.

Wolfowitz said U.S. officials believed Omar was still in the vicinity of the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, which the militia group abandoned last week.

The U.S.-led war on terrorism — already past its 60-day mark — has severely damaged suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden’s financial and communications networks, Wolfowitz said. Bin Laden is the U.S.’s prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Although bin Laden’s al-Qaida network remains a threat, Wolfowitz said, “I think we’ve probably substantially reduced his authority over people who might be inclined to listen to him.”

Taliban power dissipates

Taliban leaders yesterday surrendered their last stronghold, the province of Zabul, east of Kandahar, according to The New York Times.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said last week the Taliban’s fall fit into the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy.

“It seems that the final collapse of the Taliban is now upon them. That is a total vindication of the strategy that we have worked out from the beginning,” Blair said.

“That doesn’t mean the whole of our fight against terrorism is over,” he added. “It isn’t; not by any means at all.”

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s new interim leader, reportedly entered Kandahar yesterday and has been using Omar’s bombed-out former residence as a meeting space to broker a deal between to rival anti-Taliban factions, the Timesreports.

Karzai’s newly-formed interim government is scheduled to take power Dec. 22.

Bush mulls bin Laden tape release

In Washington, President Bush and his national security team are considering whether to release a videotape that reportedly shows bin Laden discussing the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC’s “Meet the Press” the tape clearly shows bin Laden had advance knowledge of the attacks on New York and Washington.

“He does, in fact, display significant knowledge of what happened and there’s no doubt about his responsibility for the attack on Sept. 11,” Cheney said.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said President Bush has seen the tape, which is in Arabic, and has read a translation of its contents.

The president “wants to share information with the American people,” Fleischer said.

“On the other side,” Fleischer added, “we have not sought opportunities to provide Osama bin Laden with air time.”

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