Osama bin Laden was spotted in a fortified encampment 35 miles from Jalalabad a few days ago. Hazarat Ali, the law and order minister for the eastern shura or council, which controls three major provinces in eastern Afghanistan, says informants told him that bin Laden was spotted near Tora Bora, a village where two valleys meet in the mountains of Nangarhar province, in a large, fortified encampment. He?s constantly on the move, traveling by night and sleeping in caves, so it?s doubtful he?s there right now but at least we know the general area where he?s likely to be found.
?We have some people who told us that three or four days ago, Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora,? Ali says. ?I trust them like my mother or father. He is moving at night on horseback.?
There is a large network of caves near Tora Bora where Afghan fighters hid when they were at war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The area contains bunkers and ammunition depots and is not far from the Pakistan border. Some of the caves are well fortified and have their own heating and ventilation systems which were secretly paid for by the U.S. when it was arming the Afghans to fight the Soviets.
Eastern shura commanders say that representatives of al-Qaeda paid the villagers of Tora Bora $50 per family to leave the village some weeks ago. They claim that as many as 2,000 foreign fighters are in Tora Bora with rifles, machine guns and surface-to-surface missiles. The fighters are described as ?experienced and suicidal.? Mule trails connect Tora Bora to the Pakistan border and the journey there could be made in around three days.
U.S. officials want to take DNA samples from bin Laden?s relatives so they can identify him if they think he?s been killed. American diplomats are embarking on the delicate task of persuading his relatives, most of whom live in Saudi Arabia, to give them samples.
The U.S. is also looking for the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. One report says he may have fled to Pakistan. A former warlord, Muhammad Akbar Khan Khakrazi, says that Mullah Omar was trying to leave Afghanistan when he saw him in a convoy in Kandahar, protected by gunmen on motorcycles, nine days ago.
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