KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Anti-Taliban fighters battled for control of Kandahar”s airport yesterday as American bombers pounded suspected hide-outs of Osama bin Laden in the rugged White Mountains near the border with Pakistan.

Fighters loyal to former Kandahar governor Gul Agha said they fought their way into the airport compound, but were pushed back by Taliban defenders, according to Agha”s brother, Bismillah.

Kandahar is the Taliban”s last major stronghold. Agha”s forces have been advancing on the city from the south, while troops loyal to former deputy foreign minister Hamid Karzai have been closing in from the north.

U.S. Marines camped out about 70 miles southwest of Kandahar have not joined the fight since helicopter gunships attacked a Taliban convoy a week ago.

However, a Marine spokesman said three warship-based Harrier jets bombed another site in southern Afghanistan after being called in by a forward observer. It was unclear if the Harrier strike was linked to the fight for Kandahar.

Capt. David Romley said he did not have details of the target. He said the strike was called by someone other than the U.S. Marines, who turned a desert airfield into a base over a week ago.

Elsewhere, American bombers pounded the rugged area south of the city of Jalalabad near Tora Bora, the eastern cave complex in the White Mountains that, along with Kandahar, has become a focus of the hunt for bin Laden.

Also in Jalalabad late yesterday, four huge explosions could be heard from the direction of Farmada Farm, a former bin Laden stronghold seized by anti-Taliban Afghans last month.

President Bush launched military operations against Afghanistan on Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden for his alleged role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Anti-Taliban officials in Jalalabad have said some U.S. bombs have fallen on wrong areas, killing civilians and opposition fighters.

A provincial security chief Mohammed Zeman said yesterday that U.S. warplanes bombed a guesthouse in Agom village, 15 miles south of Jalalabad, on Sunday evening. He said seven of his fighters and five civilians were killed.

U.S. officials insist they are targeting Taliban and al-Qaida installations and accused the groups of endangering civilians by hiding among them.

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