US troops sent to find Mullah Omar

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The Independent Online

merican commanders in Afghanistan were believed to have rushed scores of marines into the mountains near Baghran, about 100 miles north-west of Kandahar, in a fresh attempt to capture or kill the defeated Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Reports from the area indicated that the marines boarded several helicopters at the United States base at Kandahar airport and headed towards the Baghran mountains. The Pentagon made no public comment about the operation, but one senior defence official said a "fairly consistent body of intelligence" suggested Mullah Omar was hiding near Baghran, in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand.

Mullah Omar has been a quarry for the US since the fall of Kandahar, which had been the last Taliban stronghold, on 7 December. He vanished from the city before anti-Taliban forces went in. The other prime prey remains Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qa'ida terror network.President George Bush reiterated his concern last night that Mr bin Laden be captured. "We're going to get him," he said. "It's just a matter of when. Same with Mullah Omar."

The interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, indicated that he had received prior notification of an airborne operation. But he would not speculate about its purpose.