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Eastern Alliance Believes bin Laden Has Escaped Tora Bora

Aired December 16, 2001 - 09:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go to the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, where news is breaking this morning.

Our Walter Rodgers has the latest on the fate of al Qaeda fighters and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A two-pronged military offensive into the valleys of the Tora Bora region by the Eastern Alliance anti-Taliban forces has produced a pronouncement by the commanders of those forces that they believe the al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Tora Bora region have been put on the run. They could not find them.

There were reports from Hazrat Ali that 80 of the al Qaeda forces had been killed, another 21 Afghan-Arabs had, indeed, been captured. But they believe -- they're saying that Osama bin Laden has gotten away. They also believe that many of the al Qaeda fighters who were in the Tora Bora region have escaped this region.

As I say, there was a military campaign -- a two-pronged campaign up the valleys here, and they say the al Qaeda fighters are no longer there. Does that mean they have fled to Pakistan? Perhaps some have. But again, that's somewhat unlikely because the Pakistanis have substantial numbers of troops along the border to prevent just such an al Qaeda exodus.

More likely, it seems at this point, that many of those al Qaeda fighters and bin Laden himself may simply have gone to ground, seeking shelter deep, deep in the tunnel complex that runs under the mountains up against the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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