US troops close in on bin Laden hideaway

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The Independent Online

US troops are preparing to attack the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden is said to be hiding with hundreds of al-Qa'ida fighters, an Afghan commander said yesterday.

Hazrat Ali, security chief for the mujahedin council that controls much of eastern Afghanistan, gave the first public admission that US troops are directly aiding the mujahedin in the campaign in Tora Bora.

Commander Ali said local tribal elders had been given a message by two emissaries of Mr bin Laden, who is rumoured to be hiding in the mountains.

"The only information I have is that they came back and said that Osama bin Laden himself had requested the mujahedin not to come and fight. He said: 'I will stay here or be killed. But if I'm faced with foreign troops I will be ready to fight them.'

"We Afghans have been against terrorism for five years. We didn't leave the country – we stayed and fought. For many years, the US supported the terrorists. First, they treated them as heroes, now they are villains.

"We have fully worked out our plan – we will eliminate terrorism. I want him [bin Laden] alive to hand him over."