By Sebastian Alison and Jeremy Page
Saturday December 15, 7:39 PM
TORA BORA/KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Chechen fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden fought to the death on Saturday in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in battles with U.S. special forces and their Afghan tribal allies.
But an Afghan commander returning from the front among the caves, tunnels and valleys near Tora Bora said that while the Chechens fought on, 50 other members of bin Laden's al Qaeda network had surrendered.
The whereabouts of bin Laden himself, the man Washington accuses of masterminding the bloody September 11 suicide attacks on the United States, remained a mystery -- with U.S. officials saying he could still be with his cornered fighters.
Said Mohammad Pahlawan, an Afghan tribal commander returning from the front line in the rugged White Mountains around Tora Bora, said that the ground battle there was continuing.
"All those who surrendered had guns, but the Chechens don't want to surrender," he told Reuters, adding that 20 Chechens had been killed in the latest fighting.
Maybe we know more about what actually happened a dozen years ago at Tora Bora, but this was the perception at the time: the Chechen warriors' suicidal self-sacrifice allowed bin Laden to escape. (In other words, bin Laden's catastrophic escape from Tora Bora is a story of BRAVERY of Chechens.)
If bin Laden had been captured at Tora Bora, perhaps there would have been no Iraq War?
This just points out that the U.S. government ought to have known a lot about the culture of Chechens before the Tsarnaevs were let into America the following year.
Why did we let these Chechens in?