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Air Strikes Focus on Eastern Afghanistan

US military planes are still concentrating their raids on the mountains near Jalalabad, where Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network are believed to be hiding in underground headquarters.

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Sand storms hindered US operations in the desert near Kandahar.

US B-52 bombers attacked Taliban positions near their Kandahar stronghold in the south on Monday. Pashtun tribesmen meanwhile battled Arab Taliban fighters for control of Kandahar's airport.

According to the Afghan Islamic Press news agency, US warplanes also bombarded a suspected mountain hideout of Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, killing 58 people.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said it was "just a matter of time" before the Taliban were beaten and Osama bin Laden found. He said the US believes bin Laden is still in Afghanistan.

A fight to the bitter end

Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan have threatened to mount a bloody last stand. Among the ranks of the Taliban trapped in Kandahar are hundreds of Arabs and Chechens loyal to bin Laden, who face little future in defeat and are unlikely to surrender.

A top defector from the Taliban said the movement's Afghan spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar would also fight to the death. "One point is clear. He knows that with or without a fight, the Americans will kill him for sure," Haji Mullah Khaksar, the Taliban's former deputy interior minister, told Reuters.

"He would reason that if the Americans are going to kill him or if he is going to die in jail, why shouldn't he die in war?" Khaksar said. "It is and was in his character to fight to the death."

Emergency Food Distribution

In Kabul, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) began its planned emergency food distribution to the city's 180,000 families. It has hired over 3,600 people to conduct a house-to-house survey, the largest of its kind ever carried out in Kabul.

The surveyors will visit each household in Kabul, register members and issue a food coupon. This will entitle each family to a 50-kilograms bag of wheat, which is sufficient to last a month. As soon as the registration process is complete, WFP will use local radio and television stations to announce where families can collect their food in the city, the organization said.

The WFP teams include 2,400 women. Under Taliban rule, women were forbidden to work or leave home unchaperoned.

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