Bin Laden close to Kandahar - opposition


Suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is hiding 130 kilometers east of the southern city of Kandahar, a senior official of the Northern Alliance said this morning.

Mr Younis Qanooni, who is acting interior minister of the victorious Northern Alliance coalition, dismissed Taliban claims that bin Laden was no longer in areas under their control.

"The Taliban are trying to cheat the international community so that they will stop the aerial bombardments," Mr Qanooni said.

"According to my information, bin Laden is still in Kandahar province in Maruf, some 130 kilometers east of Kandahar city. He has training camps there and strong underground bunkers."

Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and one of their last strongholds after being routed in most of the country by Northern Alliance forces and local warlords.

The location given by Mr Qanooni for bin Laden, wanted for the September 11th terror attacks on the United States, is the most precise provided so far by an official on the ground in Afghanistan.

A British newspaper, quoting defence sources, reported today that British and US special forces had cornered bin Laden in an 80 square kilometer (30 square mile) area southeast of Kandahar.

The Sunday Telegraphsaid British and US commandos had been dropped by helicopter across the southern approach to the area to prevent the Saudi-born dissident escaping to Pakistan.