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Government spokesman: Taliban leader negotiating surrender

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U.S. troops ride horseback with members of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan on Monday in this photo released by the Pentagon on Friday.  

(CNN) -- The Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was in negotiations Friday with Pashtun tribal leaders to surrender power in a move that could signify an eventual withdrawal of the Taliban from its base of Kandahar, a local government spokesman told CNN. (Full story)

Taliban forces appeared to be pulling out of Kandahar Friday, according to local reports, but Khalid Pashtoon, a spokesman for the Kandahar government, said it was still too early to confirm that report.

He also said it would take days for the 30,000 to 40,000 Taliban troops to retreat, since most of the country is now controlled by anti-Taliban forces. Pashtoon also said that the Taliban leader, Omar, and Osama bin Laden were still in the Kandahar area.

Fighting and airstrikes in the Kandahar area continued throughout Friday.

Speaking at a Chicago, Illinois, news conference, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he has heard credible reports that Mohammed Atef -- one of the highest ranking members of al Qaeda -- has been killed in a U.S.-led airstrike. (Full story)

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Eight Western aid workers held captive by the Taliban for three months were airlifted to safety by the U.S. military. CNN's Jeff Levine reports (November 15)

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Taliban and Northern Alliance troops are battling near the town of Konduz. CNN's Satinder Bindra reports from the front lines (November 15)

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Latest developments

• On Friday -- the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- a bombing run by two U.S. Air Force aircraft damaged a mosque in Khowst, Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command officials said. Two of the bombs struck the targeted al Qaeda facility, officials said, but a third experienced a guidance malfunction and missed the facility, damaging a mosque. They said they are unaware of any injuries. (Full story)

• In northern Afghanistan, thousands of Taliban soldiers, armed with about 100 artillery pieces and 60 tanks, were fighting the Northern Alliance for control of Konduz. A senior Northern Alliance military official told CNN that his group would give safe passage out of the country to pro-Taliban Pakistani, Chechen and Arab fighters if the fighters surrender their weapons. (Full story)

• The Senate and the House passed airport security legislation Friday, approving a deal reached Thursday that stipulates airport security be federal employees. A door was left open, however, for privatization of the services in the future. (Full story)

• The U.N.'s World Food Programme has succeeded in reaching its monthly food delivery target in Afghanistan, the program's Executive Director Catherine Bertini said Friday. The agency reached the target of 52,000 metric tons per month, which it considers enough food to feed the country's millions of hungry people.

• Terminals at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, were being evacuated Friday after a man entered a secure area without being screened, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Chris White said. He said the man entered an airline gate area about noon. All airplane departures were halted and everyone was re-screened.

• The agency that runs Boston's Logan International Airport, citing two security breaches since September 11, is suspending the license of troubled Argenbright Security Inc., which handles checkpoint security for several airlines at the airport. Col. John DiFava, acting security chief for the Massachusetts Port Authority, told CNN that Atlanta-based Argenbright can no longer be trusted.

• The French Defense Ministry announced on Friday it is sending a first contingent of troops as part of the international aid effort in Afghanistan. Officials said 60 soldiers left Friday morning the Istres air base in southern France for Uzbekistan.

• Pakistan is beefing up security forces at its border with Afghanistan on Friday as the Taliban regime continues to lose ground to opposition forces. Troops were being sent to the border to supplement the police "to make sure the border is sealed and no one can move across the border into Pakistan without valid documents," said Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi.

• In Tokyo, the Japanese government is expected to formally approve Friday a plan to give logistical and non-combat support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

• Eight C-130 aircraft carrying 160 U.S. and British troops landed Thursday at an airfield outside Kabul to secure and inspect it for possible use in aid missions. They met no resistance. (Full story)


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