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SLUG: 2-284884 Afghanistan Wrap (L Only)








INTRO: Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah says ousted Taleban leader Mohammed Omar has been surrounded by anti-Taleban forces near the city of Baghran. As V-O-A's Alisha Ryu reports from Kabul, some officials say local tribal leaders have been negotiating his surrender.

TEXT: Foreign Minister Abdullah (who uses just one name) called the deposed Taleban leader a terrorist and said he should be tried before an international tribunal.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul (following the official signing of an agreement on how international peacekeepers will operate in Afghanistan) Mr. Abdullah said the Taleban leader is in the city of Baghran and has been surrounded.

Mr. Abdullah is the highest ranking Afghan official to claim the Taleban leader had been located. Mohammed Omar and al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden have been the object of a continuing manhunt.

On Thursday, a minister in interim President Hamid Karzai's cabinet told Germany's A-R-D television that he believed Mohammed Omar had been captured. Australia's A-B-C television also reported his capture, quoting a senior official of the Northern Alliance.

Appearing on American television, President Karzai said he has not

received any reports that would indicate the Taleban leader had been

captured. Mr. Karzai says anti-Taleban forces are still searching for him in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, where he is believed hiding with more than a thousand of his fighters.

Regional Afghan officials in the area say they are negotiating with tribal leaders for the Taleban leader's surrender and the surrender of weapons. A deputy for Kandahar's intelligence chief, Haji Gulalai, says the village where Mohammed Omar is believed to be is, in his words "surrounded", by anti-Taleban forces. He did not reveal the name or the exact location of the village.

Meanwhile, the U-S Marines have closed a desert base near Kandahar. A

Marine spokesman says the base was shut down Thursday and turned over to

Afghan government authorities. The Pentagon says army troops from the 101st Airborne Division, who are replacing the Marines, will be based at

Kandahar airport.

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In eastern Paktia province, U-S warplanes for the second time in as many

days - bombed a suspected compound of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida

organization. U-S officials say they are certain that some leaders of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization were killed during airstrikes on Thursday.

The bombings reflects growing U-S concerns that members of al-Qaida are

regrouping. The United States has now launched four such air strikes since

December 20th in its campaign to wipe out terrorist elements in Afghanistan.


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