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Troops pray and receive thanks on Christmas Eve

Marines sing Christmas carols during a service at Kandahar Airport on Christmas Eve.  


(CNN) -- Christmas hymns echoed in the U.S. military Camp Rhino as officials warned U.S. Marines would soon move into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan to search for Osama bin Laden.

The Rev. Joseph Scordo, a Navy chaplain, led a candlelight midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, a ceremony that took place about 70 miles south of Kandahar Airport.

One soldier in Mazar-e-Sharif told The Associated Press that, after he explained the Christmas tradition of gift-giving to an Afghan soldier, the man thanked the serviceman for bringing the gift of peace to his country. (Full story)

President Bush expressed compassion for the victims of the September 11 terror attacks and gratitude to U.S. service members Tuesday in his Christmas radio address. (Full story)

Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, also issued holiday greetings to the troops under his command. (Full story)

Military officials also said that a U.S. airstrike Sunday targeted caves and ammunition dumps north of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. (Map)

Meanwhile, other U.S. military officials said bombing in the Tora Bora region had tapered off because the movement of U.S. Marines into the area was "imminent" and. Special Forces who are familiar with the area will accompany the Marines.

Officials said they don't know where bin Laden is or whether he is even alive, but recent speculation on his whereabouts centered on a network of caves and tunnels in the mountains around Tora Bora.

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

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CNN's Kathleen Koch reports that the latest airline scare, in which a passenger allegedly tried to ignite explosives in his shoes, has prompted rigorous airport security checks (December 24)

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Pakistani forces and independent tribal leaders are joining the hunt for fleeing al Qaeda members. CNN's Kamal Hyder reports (December 24)

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Latest developments

• Interim Afghan government leader Hamid Karzai has named Northern Alliance Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum as his deputy defense minister. Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, had criticized the interim government for not giving enough representation to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

• A man accused of trying to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes aboard a trans-Atlantic flight over the weekend made his first court appearance Monday on federal charges in Boston, Massachusetts. Richard C. Reid, 28, did not enter a plea because he does not have an attorney yet. He was ordered held pending trial, and a probable cause hearing was set for Friday. (Full story)

• Taliban fighters in southeastern Afghanistan began turning in their weapons Sunday as part of a disarmament deal brokered by an envoy of former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah. Between 100 and 150 weapons -- most of them made in Russia or China -- were handed over in two towns. (Full story)

• The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency employed a group of Afghans over a period of years to track Osama bin Laden's whereabouts in Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials. Officials were unwilling to divulge the number of Afghans involved but said the program began in 1998. (Full story)

• New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who rallied his city and helped nurture its recovery from the September 11 terrorist attacks, is Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2001, the magazine announced Sunday. (Full story)

• John Walker, the 20-year-old Californian who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan, at one point lived in a secret camp where he attended a small meeting with Osama bin Laden, Newsweek magazine reported Sunday. At the meeting, "the disciple basked in the glow of his master," the magazine said in its December 31 issue.

• The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, has reportedly applied to Islamabad for political asylum. Zaeef, the diplomatic and public face of the Taliban during the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, has told The Associated Press news agency he is seeking asylum out of fear of persecution in his own country. (Full story)

• A Hollywood entertainment industry group is recruiting Muhammad Ali to film a public service announcement explaining American policy to Muslims in the Middle East, The New York Times reported Sunday.

• Australian officials have begun interrogating Australian al Qaeda fighter David Hicks aboard a U.S. Navy ship, Attorney-General Daryl Williams said Monday. The interviews were being conducted by a joint Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organization team, and were expected to take several days. (Full story)

• Afghan authorities are struggling to maintain adequate conditions for about 3,000 Taliban prisoners held at a facility about 75 miles from the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The facility was meant to hold only 200 prisoners. Many of the captured fighters are sick, most are cold, and all are hungry.

• Soul-searching after the September 11 attacks has many U.S. families re-evaluating the holiday season. Many are seeking out ways to restore an emphasis on family and close friends and are trying to downsize their celebrations by stripping away commercial influences. By spending less, they're also hoping to be able to give more to charities.



 
 
 
 



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