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Pentagon: U.S. warplanes strike 'leadership' convoy

Rumsfeld: "A lot of people killed" in airstrike on 'leadership' convoy  

(CNN) -- U.S. forces struck a convoy southwest of Tora Bora, Afghanistan, Friday, which Pentagon officials said was carrying al Qaeda or Taliban leaders.

Some local officials claim those killed were local tribal elders on their way to the inauguration of Afghanistan's new government. The Pentagon rejected that claim.

"Intelligence we gathered at the time indicated that this was in fact leadership and we struck the leadership," said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "It was a large convoy, and there were a lot of people killed and a lot of vehicles damaged, or destroyed, I should say."

Pace said the strike -- against 10 to 12 vehicles -- was around the town of Khwost, southwest of Tora Bora, an area struck before because of al Qaeda training camps.

"Those targets were attacked by AC-130 gunships and by fighter aircraft from the carriers. And the compound from which they left, the command and control compound from which they left, was also struck," Pace said. U.S. bombing runs also resumed Friday on mountainous eastern Afghanistan. (Full story)

The United States still doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is, or if he is dead or alive, Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. But he said U.S. forces in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region have been searching caves where Osama bin Laden may be hiding. He said more of the U.S.-led coalition forces would be sent, as necessary, for more sweeping searches.

Watch entire Osama bin Laden videotape, released by the Pentagon on December 13

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Hundreds of U.S. Special Forces troops remain active along the Pakistani border as the manhunt for Osama bin Laden continues. CNN's Kathleen Koch reports (December 20)

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Twenty-one al Qaeda prisoners escaped in Pakistan after an armed revolt left 13 people dead. CNN's David Ensor reports (December 20)

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Latest developments

• Coalition spokesman Kenton Keith said Friday coalition forces in Afghanistan are interrogating about 7,000 prisoners to determine whether they were merely Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers or hard-liners and those "with blood on their hands." (Full story)

• Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said Friday that information gathered in Afghanistan had led to arrests foiling terrorist attacks "around the world."

In the United States, investigators have gathered "several leads" and "valuable information" from the government's interviews of roughly 5,000 young men with suspected terrorist ties, the Justice Department announced Friday. It also said those interviews are largely complete.

• The original translation of the Osama bin Laden videotape misses the fact that bin Laden identifies nine of the September 11 hijackers, a Saudi dissident says and an independent translator hired by CNN confirmed Thursday. (Full story)

• U.S. President Bush on Thursday announced moves to freeze the assets of the militant group blamed by India for the suicide attack on the parliament building in New Delhi earlier this month. (Full story)

• The estimate of the number of dead in the September 11 World Trade Center attacks fell to 2,963, officials said Thursday. The Office of Emergency Management said 555 people are confirmed dead, 454 people are listed as missing with no death certificates issued, and 1,954 death certificates have been issued for victims, whose remains have not yet been identified. It was initially estimated that as many as 6,500 were killed in the New York attacks.

• A runner carrying the burning Olympic Torch on Friday passed the portion of the Pentagon hit by a hijacked airliner on September 11. It was carried by Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown. Brown's son was aboard the jet and was among the 189 people who died in the attack.

• Local officials reported 100 people wounded -- six seriously -- by an explosion Thursday afternoon at a market in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan, The Associated Press reported. One of the wounded said he saw an fragmentation grenade rolling just before the blast. One official called the explosion a terrorist act.

• About 150 British peacekeeping troops were at Bagram air base outside Kabul, and about 100 of the British contingent moved into the city on Friday, a day ahead of the interim government's assumption of power. (Full story)

• Families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks could begin applying for federal benefits on Friday. They will receive, on average, about $1.5 million from government and other sources -- excluding charities -- under regulations established by the Justice Department. The range will be from $300,000 to families of single people earning as little as $10,000 per year to as much as $3 million for top-earners with large families. (Full story)

• For the first time since arriving in the region December 15, several aircraft from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis dropped bombs on eastern Afghanistan on Friday.

• In the United States, a national warning and corporate security advisory about possible terrorist attacks have been extended through January 2. A spokesman for Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the national warning issued December 3 continues in effect because the threat -- regarded as "credible but non-specific" -- still exists. (Full story)

• Russia and Britain agreed Friday to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair told a news conference that a new London-Moscow working party would be created for the war on terror. (Full story)

• Speaking from his hospital bed shortly after being captured, a wounded and weary John Walker, a U.S. citizen who joined the Taliban, told an interviewer earlier this month that the bloody prison uprising that resulted in the death of a CIA operative was "all a mistake of a handful of people." (Full story)

• A USA Today report on the WTC death toll showed that a variety of circumstances determined who died and who survived after the jets slammed into the twin towers. (Full story)


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