Troops Close in on the Lair of Bin Laden; Al Qaeda Leader 'In Good Health and Ready to Use Biological Weapons'
Lowther, William, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: WILLIAM LOWTHER
THE net is closing around Osama Bin Laden, it was claimed last night.
U.S. and Afghan forces were said to be advancing on an area where the world's most wanted terrorist is thought to be hiding.
Two American soldiers and a large number of Taliban fighters were reported to have died in fierce fighting in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime, ousted following the September 11 atrocities two years ago, has regrouped in the 12,000ft peaks along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
U. S. intelligence believes the regime is making a stand in this area because it is the first line of defence for Bin Laden, whose hideout could be in Afghanistan's remote Kunar province.
'We are tightening the siege against them step by step,' declared Khalil Hotak, an official with the U.S-backed Afghan army.
As the operation intensified, fighter planes and helicopters pounded Taliban positions.
U.S. intelligence sources said hundreds of reinforcements had joined the fighting on both sides, with the fiercest battles in the Dai Chupan district of Zabul province.
More than 1,000 Arab guerillas are thought to be in the mountains with Bin Laden, living in mud and stone houses hidden by trees and underbrush. …