KABUL, Afghanistan

Bin Laden may be hiding in Afghanistan

Osama bin Laden may be hiding in Afghanistan, while followers of the former ruling Taliban who once harbored the al-Qaida leader appear to be fragmenting, a U.S. commander said yesterday.

Col. Gary Cheek, who controls U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that bin Laden and other key militant leaders could be in his area of responsibility, a swath of the country flanking the rugged Pakistani border.

Cheek said the number of foreign fighters facing his forces was not “significant” and that most operated near the rugged Pakistani frontier, the zone most widely touted as a hiding place for bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Forces loyal to Taliban commanders such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has joined the ousted militia in vowing to drive out foreign troops, pose a larger military threat than the foreign fighters Cheeck said.

 

BAGHDAD, Iraq

Al-Qaida bombing kills police deputy

Gunmen yesterday assassinated Baghdad’s deputy police chief and his son, police said, and al-Qaida in Iraq later claimed responsibility. Elsewhere in the capital, a huge roadside bomb destroyed a U.S. armored vehicle and killed two American soldiers, the military said.

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is one of the more heavily armored U.S. military vehicles, suggesting that the roadside bomb was more powerful than those typically used in recent months. The Defense Department said last week that insurgents were increasing the size and power of the bombs they plant as they escalate their attacks before the Jan. 30 election.

Four American soldiers also were wounded in the blast. It came four days after another powerful roadside bomb hit a Bradley, killing all seven U.S. soldiers inside and destroying the vehicle.

 

FORT HOOD, Texas

Guard testifies in Abu Ghraib prison case

A military guard testified yesterday that he saw Spc. Charles Graner Jr. punch an Iraqi detainee in the face a moment after a notorious photo was taken at Abu Ghraib prison.

Another witness said Graner was “laughing and having a good time” while making naked prisoners pose.

Spc. Matthew Wisdom, the first witness in Graner’s prisoner abuse court-martial, said Graner was among a number of guards who roughed up detainees on Nov. 7, 2003. Graner is the first soldier to be tried in the case, and prosecutors say he was the ringleader of the abuse.

Testimony got under way yesterday after opening statements.

Wisdom described a prominent photo from Abu Ghraib that showed the muscular Graner holding a detainee as if he were about to strike him in the face.

 

NEW YORK

CBS fires four over National Guard story

CBS issued a damning independent review yesterday of mistakes related to last fall’s “60 Minutes Wednesday” report on President Bush’s National Guard service and fired three news executives and a producer for their “myopic zeal” in rushing it on the air.

The review said CBS compounded the damage with a circle-the-wagons mentality once the report came under fire. The independent investigators added, however, that they found no evidence of a political bias against Bush.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward and Dan Rather, who announced in November he was stepping down as the anchor of “CBS Evening News,” escaped without any disciplinary action. But Rather, who narrated the Sept. 8 story and subsequent follow-ups, was criticized by CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves.

-Compiled from Daily wire reports

 

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