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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hunt for Bin Laden In Tora Bora Loses Steam

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The U.S. military is winding down its search for Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora after failing to find him in the bomb-shattered cave complex and is targeting air and ground attacks against remnants of the al-Qaida network and the Taliban to stop them from regrouping.

The shift in military activity comes as the U.S.-led coalition focuses increasingly on rebuilding the war-ravaged nation. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a group of U.S. senators made brief, overlapping visits late Monday to Afghanistan and vowed to help the country create a more stable environment that would prevent extremists from again coming to power.

In Kandahar commander Sadozai, a high-ranking security official for Governor Gul Agha, said Tuesday that top Taliban officials sent a messenger three or four days ago saying they wanted to talk about surrendering. The officials did not disclose the names of the Taliban members or their location, but former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Ubai Dullah is said to be among them.

Agha and others were in a tribal council meeting late Tuesday evening to try to decide how to handle the surrender offer, said Sadozai, who uses one name only.

In the southern city of Kandahar, one of the seven heavily armed al-Qaida fighters who had been holed up for more than a month in a hospital, threatening to kill anyone who tried to move them, made a pre-dawn escape attempt Tuesday. He exploded a grenade and killed himself when soldiers surrounded him. His name and nationality were unknown.

General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. war effort, said at his headquarters in Florida that the weeks-long search through the tunnels and rubble of the Tora Bora complex in eastern Afghanistan had failed to turn up bin Laden, blamed by the United States for the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The search would be ending in the next day or so with no clue to bin Laden's whereabouts, Franks said. He added that an arrangement has been put in place that could lead to U.S. troops pursuing him in neighboring Pakistan, though he said there was no hard proof bin Laden was there.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said U.S.-led forces are focusing more on finding and attacking remaining Taliban and al-Qaida members and less on the hunt for bin Laden, focusing "more on the entire picture of the country."

As part of that effort, American warplanes have been striking a "hotbed" of terrorist support at the al-Qaida base at Zawar Kili near Khost, where bin Laden's followers have been emerging, possibly from the Tora Bora area.

Pakistan has said its troops arrested 23 foreign fighters trying to cross from Afghanistan over the weekend. At least 350 al-Qaida members, including more then 300 Arab nationals, have been arrested in Pakistan after crossing the border.

The Pakistan-based Aghan Islamic Press agency reported U.S. planes dropped leaflets to tribespeople in eastern Afghanistan to not provide refuge to al-Qaida fugitives, saying they could be caught in retaliatory strikes. Local leaders have denied the presence of terrorists in their areas and urged a halt to the bombings.