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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Taliban leaders captured, Bin Laden still free

WASHINGTON/KABUL, Afghanistan (REUTERS) — In a potential intelligence coup, Northern Alliance opposition forces on Thursday apparently captured some senior Taliban leaders in war-torn Afghanistan, but Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden remained on the run. despite U.S. assertions it was “tightening the noose” on him.

The latest development came as President Bush sent Ramadan greetings to the Islamic world and said the United States was now turning to “acts of charity” in Afghanistan even as it kept up a bombing campaign, now in its 40th day, on the eve of the Muslim holy fasting month.

The Taliban, which has ruled Afghanistan since 1996, was making a last stand in two key cities after losing control of most of the country, but its leader said the military collapse was all part of a plan to destroy America.

A senior U.S. official in Washington said the Northern Alliance had captured senior Taliban officials, but the circumstances of the capture were not yet known.
The captives did not include Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar or bin Laden, but they may be able to provide information on where the two men were hiding out, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Bin Laden, accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks on America that killed some 4,500 people, has operated his al Qaeda network out of Afghanistan with the blessing of the Taliban leaders, but is finding himself with fewer and fewer friends.

The Pentagon said earlier on Thursday that U.S. warplanes killed some leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda in two targeted bombing raids on buildings in Kabul and Kandahar on Tuesday and Wednesday.


But Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke also told reporters she could not say whether the deaths involved senior leaders and said there was no evidence that bin Laden was present when the bombs struck.

“There was some leadership killed in both [strikes],” Clarke told reporters in a briefing. “We have no evidence that [top leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda] were there.”

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. was starting to zero in on bin Laden.

“We are tightening the noose; it’s a matter of time,” Franks told reporters at a Pentagon media conference with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “What is inevitable is that the bombing will become more and more and more focused.”

Part of that “tightening noose” arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday, when eight C-130 military cargo planes carrying about 160 British and U.S. troops flew into Bagram air base north of Kabul to set up security and help make repairs to the base, U.S. defense officials told Reuters.

The big field could be used as a base for both military operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban and for humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of refugees inside Afghanistan.

Kabul, the Afghan capital, was captured from the Taliban last week by the Northern Alliance.

Small numbers of elite U.S. special-forces troops have been in Afghanistan for some time helping direct air strikes and to disrupt Taliban movements.

With the possibility of Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas moving into mountain caves and tunnels in the remote south as winter approaches, both Rumsfeld and Franks refused to rule out putting more American troops on the ground to root them out.

Rumsfeld also said bin Laden could slip out of Afghanistan, but he said the United States would relentlessly pursue him.

“I think we will find him [bin Laden], either there or in some other country,” he said.

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