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U.S., anti-Taliban forces hunt down al Qaeda

Opposition fighters look out at a plume of smoke after a U.S. B-52 bombed a front line position in the mountains of Tora Bora.  

(CNN) -- U.S. and anti-Taliban forces intensified their search for Taliban and al Qaeda leaders Saturday, with one senior tribal commander claiming to have intercepted radio transmissions speaking of a "tall man on horseback" near Tora Bora -- a reference, he said, to Osama bin Laden.

That report, which allegedly identified the tall man as "the sheik," further heightened speculation that bin Laden may be directing the movement of al Qaeda fighters in the hills of southeastern Afghanistan.

U.S. warplanes struck targets around Tora Bora on Saturday as Eastern Alliance and U.S. forces continued their ground assault on al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts in the area. (Full story)

CNN's Brent Sadler reports al Quada fighters are no pushovers in the fight for Tora Bora (December 8)

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CNN's Miles O'Brien talks to Nic Robertson about the jockeying and concerns over who will control Kandahar (December 8)

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Afghan leader Hamid Karzai discusses the handover of Kandahar and his demands of Mullah Mohammed Omar.

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Karzai calls on non-Afghan Taliban to leave Afghanistan immediately.

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 The latest news

Meanwhile, in Kandahar, rival Afghan factions met north of the former Taliban stronghold Saturday to try determining who would control the southern city.

Hamid Karzai, tapped to head Afghanistan's interim government beginning December 22, talked with representatives of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and Mullah Naqibullah, a former Mujahedeen who accepted Kandahar's surrender from Omar on Friday.

Anti-Taliban loyal to Karzai told CNN that they rejected Naqibullah's command of Kandahar. Citing his Taliban ties, they said he should not have power in the city. (Full story)

Latest developments

• Pashtun tribal leaders said Saturday they do not know the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, who was in Kandahar on Friday but had left by the following morning. Karzai said Omar expressed no remorse for the suffering he had brought to Afghanistan and should be brought to trial to face "international justice." (Full story)

• U.S. forces were holding John Walker, the 20-year-old American who fought with the Taliban, at a Marine base in southern Afghanistan "for his own protection", a Marine Corps spokesman said Saturday. (Full story)

• Three U.S. special forces troops killed in a friendly fire accident in Afghanistan this week should be remembered as heroes who saved Afghan lives, a wounded comrade said. (Full story)

• Public tours of the U.S. Capitol resumed on Saturday for the first time since the September 11 attacks. "We constantly re-evaluate the tours and security within the Capitol complex and we feel the time's right now. We can maintain adequate security and still ensure the safety of our visitors within the Capitol building," said Capitol Hill Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols. (Full story)

• U.S. Marines held a ceremony Saturday for an Afghan opposition fighter killed this week in the "friendly fire" incident that also killed three U.S. soldiers. A Roman Catholic Marine major who is a lay minister spoke, and a Muslim Marine corporal read from the Koran. The man was given a 21-gun salute.

• A key bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan will reopen Sunday to speed aid to war refugees as the United Nations begins its campaign to begin repatriating refugees to their homes in the spring. (Full story)

A Marine CH-53E helicopter flies over Camp Rhino in southern Afghanistan.  

• The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday pushing an initiative to free "the innocents" in Afghanistan those Arabs who are not members of al Qaeda and not fighters with the Taliban. Shaif-el-Islam Gaddafi, head of the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, said that as many as 15,000 Arabs -- many of them women and children -- may be in Afghanistan but not taking part in hostilities. (Full story)

• The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will begin repatriating Afghan refugees in spring, an official with the world body said Saturday. With winter looming and the region politically unstable, "this is not the right time to send them home," said Kamel Morjane, an assistant to the U.N. High Commissioner.

• ABC and CBS on Friday aired video that they said showed CIA officer Michael Spann interrogating American Taliban fighter John Walker before a revolt at a prison near Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. Spann was killed in the uprising. Walker survived and remains in U.S. custody.

• In a solemn ceremony remembering those who died in the World Trade Center's twin towers September 11, workers at Ground Zero dedicated a 37-foot tall Christmas tree Friday night. (Full story)


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