Marines focus on hunt for bin Laden

Tribal fighters backed by tanks and U.S. warplanes launched a fierce attack today against about 1,000 al-Qaida forces and seized a key ridge near a suspected hideout of Osama bin Laden in eastern Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.

In the south, U.S. Marine "hunter-killer" teams with armed vehicles moved closer to Kandahar, setting up a staging ground about 12 miles from the city to cut off escape routes and hunt for vanquished Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

American and Afghan officials regard both areas as likely hiding places for bin Laden, whose capture is now the main focus of the U.S.-led war on terror. Marines also secured the abandoned grounds of the U.S. Embassy in the heart of Kabul, which the Taliban fled last month.

John Walker, a U.S. citizen who fought for the Taliban, was reported in good condition and recovering from dehydration and a gunshot wound in the leg. Walker has been providing useful information, and no final decision had been made on his fate, officials said.

U.S. officials today were weighing whether to make public a videotape of bin Laden that Vice President Dick Cheney said makes clear that he was behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

On the tape, bin Laden recalls tuning in to news shows hours before the attacks, waiting to hear reports about the destruction, a U.S. official said. Bin Laden is also reported to say that after the first plane struck one of the World Trade Center towers, he told those with him that more devastation was coming.

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