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Taliban agree to stop fighting in Konduz

Northern Alliance soldiers and tanks near the frontline at the Bangi Bridge between Takhor and Konduz provinces in Afghanistan on Wednesday


(CNN) -- Taliban leaders in the besieged town of Konduz agreed Wednesday to stop fighting, after hours of talks with a top Northern Alliance commander, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Konduz is the last city in northern Afghanistan under Taliban control, and has been the source of heavy fighting in recent days. The United States had intensified its air campaign in the region.

During Wednesday's meeting, Taliban Gen. Mullah Faizel, the assistant minister of defense, said their fighters -- including Chechens, Pakistanis and Arabs in Konduz -- would stop fighting. Earlier, many pro-Taliban fighters pledged to fight until their death there.

"In Konduz, nothing will happen," he said.

Details of the agreement are still being negotiated. Talks are expected to continue all night. (Full story)

Dostum also said he is negotiating with other officials about the surrender of more Taliban-controlled areas in Afghanistan, including the southern stronghold of Kandahar, the Taliban's religious headquarters. He did not specify what officials he was in contact with.

Meanwhile, in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, President Bush promised a group of elite U.S. troops Wednesday that the United States would destroy Osama bin Laden's terrorist network "piece by piece."

Bush told members of the Army's 101st Airborne division the "most difficult steps" in the war against terrorism lie ahead, but the United States will defend its freedom until victory is achieved.

He described members of bin Laden's al Qaeda network as ruthless terrorists who have "killed thousands of our citizens and seek to kill many more."

"The enemy hopes they can hide until we tire. But we're going to prove them wrong. We will never tire, and we will hunt them down," the president said. "We will fight these evil ones, and we will win." (Full story)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and told them the amount of territory that bin Laden and his Taliban allies could operate in was shrinking.

Rumsfeld could not say how close the United States was to capturing bin Laden, and compared the search to chasing a chicken around a barnyard.

"Until you get it, you don't have it," he said. "They keep tracking and dodging and bobbing and weaving and we're looking."

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Spokesman Syed Tayyad Agha denies the Taliban have contact with Osama bin Laden and says Afghanistan has no ties to the September 11 attacks (November 21)

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Latest developments

• Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar's personal secretary said the Taliban would continue to fight for Islam in Kandahar and the surrounding provinces still under their control, and said they have no communication with suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda network. (Full story)

• Pentagon sources say as many as 1,600 U.S. Marines are on standby off the Pakistani coast and could be called in, probably for reconnaissance missions. More than 4,000 Marines are offshore; 2,000 of which are combat-ready. (Full story)

U.S. forces are on alert for al Qaeda members who might try to escape from Afghanistan to neighboring countries and then board a ship in the northern Arabian Sea, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Peter Pace said Wednesday. Pace said the United States has not yet stopped any ships.

• The death toll from the destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorists in September appears to have dropped significantly, according to numbers released by the New York mayor's office. A total of 3,682 people are either confirmed dead or missing and presumed dead, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said. Estimates of the missing and dead in the days after the attacks had at one point exceeded 6,500 -- perhaps the result of double-counting -- and getting true figures has been complicated by the devastation. (Full story)

• A 94-year-old woman who lived alone in a small Connecticut town died Wednesday of inhalation anthrax, hospital officials said. The woman had limited activity, didn't travel much and had no apparent connection with U.S. Postal Service or government facilities, which are tied to most of the previous anthrax cases. (Full story)

• Delegations from four anti-Taliban groupings -- including the Northern Alliance, Pashtun tribes from southern Afghanistan and supporters of exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah -- will meet in or near Berlin on Monday for U.N.-organized talks to thrash out a plan for an interim government in Afghanistan. Security is on high alert in Berlin. (Full story)

• Mujahedeen of the Northern Alliance, holding Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, dispersed a crowd about 200 that gathered outside the main mosqueon Wednesday in the western Afghan town of Herat. The demonstrators voiced support for the U.N. plan for Afghanistan and the return of the former king of Afghanistan, Mohammad Zahir Shah. (Full story)

• British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Thursday will embark on a trip to Iran and Pakistan. Straw said he hopes to identify the continuing concerns of both of those countries, which border Afghanistan. (Full story)

• The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center will be memorialized in the 75th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Full story)

• Four U.S. service members were injured Tuesday night when a military helicopter "experienced a hard landing" in southern Afghanistan, according to U.S. Central Command.

• Afghans interviewed in Spin Boldak told CNN they were not aware of the $25 million reward the United States is offering for information leading to the capture or conviction of bin Laden, but many said they were interested. U.S. planes have been dropping leaflets advertising the bounty across Afghanistan.


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