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December 3, 2001
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Opposition forces enter Kandahar airport

K J M Varma in Islamabad

In what appeared to be the 'culmination point' of the military campaign in Afghanistan, opposition forces, backed by US bombing raids, on Monday entered the Kandahar airport where troops of Northern Alliance and Taliban militia were engaged in fierce fighting.

With American warplanes pounding Taliban's last stronghold and local tribal fighters closing in on the city, United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Taliban to surrender or face death.

Anti-militia forces claimed to have entered the Kandahar airport and are meeting strong resistance from hundreds of foreign Taliban fighters entrenched there.

"The Arabs are really fighting, they know they have no choice, they are fighting to the death," a spokesman of former Kandahar governor, Gul Agha Shiraji, was quoted as saying.

Stating that fierce fighting was going on, the spokesman said: "We have lost 12 fighters but they have lost at least three times as many."

Continuous US bombing at Taliban positions in the area helped the opposition push at the airport.

The push to capture Taliban's last remaining stronghold 'seems to be reaching the culmination point' of the campaign, a marine intelligence officer Major James Higgins said.

Appearing on NBC television, Rumsfeld warned Taliban forces, defending Kandahar, that they would be killed if they do not surrender.

US military in Afghanistan would do 'whatever is necessary' to flush them out, he said adding that the task would be 'particularly dirty and unpleasant'.

Meanwhile, some reports said US warplanes are bombing a cave network near Jalalabad, believed to house Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden.

An Afghan Islamic Press report said that close to 20 US special forces commandos landed near the caves on Sunday.

US army spokesman in Islamabad, Kenton Keith, said, "There are coalition forces in the area."

But he refused to confirm the AIP report on the number of US soldiers present in the area.

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
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