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Brent Sadler: 'Hunt-and-kill operations' in Tora Bora

CNN's Brent Sadler
CNN's Brent Sadler  

(CNN) -- U.S. bombs and Eastern Alliance ground fire hammered at al Qaeda positions in the snow-covered mountains near Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, trying to flush out Osama bin Laden, who military commanders believe might be holed up in the region's caves and tunnels.

CNN's Brent Sadler, near the front lines on Friday, reported on the fighting and on CNN colleague Ben Wedeman's radio conversation with al Qaeda members.

SADLER: Hunt-and-kill operations against the al Qaeda network in the Tora Bora mountain range were certainly stepped up this day. There's a lull right now, but for many hours just after daybreak, wave upon wave of U.S. bombers had been pounding a small, concentrated area in the mountain range in eastern Afghanistan.

Bomb after bomb hit areas -- single bombs, multiple bombs, shaking the valleys, waking everybody up here, and really putting the entire media corps that's watching this event on alert, because it does seem with this stepped-up air activity that perhaps there's a climax being reached in this ongoing mountain war.

We're getting reports from Eastern Alliance Afghan commanders that they have made significant inroads -- but those reports are unconfirmed. They say that they're closing in on some of the top leadership targets. This, in concert, as we know, with reports that special operations are being extremely effective up in the mountains, particularly in poor visibility in the last 24 hours.

Also this afternoon, journalists were taken up to the front -- the same place I was at a couple of days ago -- to show how that had been put back under control of the Eastern Alliance, and there was a brief exchange of gunfire. Journalists came under attack again, a few shots popped at them, no injuries. But certainly, it proves that although we've seen all this incredible bombing activity, al Qaeda members are still hanging on up there.

CNN's Ben Wedeman
CNN's Ben Wedeman  

Now, CNN's Ben Wedeman, my Arabic-speaking colleague who is the Cairo bureau chief, has just come back with an incredible piece of videotape. Ben Wedeman was up there on the front line, talking by radio to al Qaeda terrorists a short distance away, and Ben asked them what it was like up there, and they told him they were enduring the air assault. He asked them about whether or not they were going to surrender a couple of days ago; the al Qaeda voice said, "No, that was all lies."

This conversation went on for several minutes. Ben asked about Osama bin Laden; with that question, the radio contact was broken off.


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