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K J M Varma in Islamabad
The United States on Sunday unleashed one of its heaviest attacks on Kandahar to soften up Taleban positions and focussed its hunt for Osama bin Laden on two mountainous areas.
The Northern Alliance, too, prepared to mount a major offensive on Kandahar, the militia's only remaining stronghold.
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press, quoting a Taleban official, said over 50 civilians were killed in US raids in Kandahar, Jalalabad and the road between Spin Boldak and Kandahar.
Some reports suggested that a part of the Kandahar airport was captured by anti-Taleban forces, but BBC said it seemed they were holding off an attack on the town itself.
The US warplanes focussed their hunt on two mountainous areas, one near Kandahar and the other in the remote eastern region of Tora Bora, about 50 km south of Jalalabad, believed to be a hideout of Osama bin Laden and the operatives of his Al Qaeda network.
Tora Bora cave complex came under relentless bombing overnight, AIP reported.
AIP also said that Taleban targets in the province of Helmand, west of Kandahar, came under heavy bombings.
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