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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 17:08 GMT
Arms cache found near US base
US troops hang out their laundry as a helicopter lands at the Kandahar base
Marines have been using the airport for over a month
US forces trying to root out the remnants of the Taleban regime and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan have uncovered an enemy hideout stashed with weapons just outside their base in the southern city of Kandahar.

We have closed all the caves - so it is now time to go look elsewhere

John Stufflebeem
US Rear Admiral
The hideout, a mudwalled house equipped with an underground tunnel network, was discovered after a group of seven armed men were seen heading towards the building outside the airport base on Monday night.

In a raid on the site on Tuesday morning, a group of US soldiers discovered a cache of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, although the men had disappeared.

Demolition experts then blew up the site, located just several hundred metres from the US base.

Suspicions were first raised last week, when unidentified gunmen launched an attack on US marines at the airport just as a plane took off for Cuba, carrying a first batch of Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners.

The Kandahar base is the main detention centre for prisoners taken during the US campaign against Afghanistan.

Correspondents said that although Tuesday's discovery was small, the fact that a hideout so close to the US base had gone unnoticed for a considerable period of time illustrates the difficulties faced by the Americans in defeating pockets of resistance.

US marines have been using the base for more than a month.

Moving on

The US military has recently been concentrating its air campaign on alleged al-Qaeda hideouts in the east of the country, but officials have now indicated that they are satisfied with the results in the Zhawar Kili area and intend to find new targets.

Ruins of an al-Qaeda camp
Some air raids on al-Qaeda camps have clearly been successful
"As I understand it, we have levelled the remaining structures that were found on the surface and we have closed all the caves that we would intend not to be reoccupied," Navy Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said.

"It is now the time to go and look elsewhere."

The CIA has meanwhile denied media reports that analysts trying to track chief terror suspect Bin Laden had concluded that he had escaped from Afghanistan in early December, before leaving Pakistan by ship for an unknown destination.

"It's completely untrue," a spokeswoman said. "That is not what the CIA believes."

On the 101st day of the US campaign, both Bin Laden and his ally and old friend, Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, remain at large.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Inside an al-Qaeda camp
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
Video 'reveals al-Qaeda terror plot'
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Harsh conditions for Afghan prisoners
14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Marines take Kandahar airport
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Al-Qaeda to struggle on
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