Thursday, September 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

US Embassy set ablaze in Kabul
Pak, Iran not to join military offensive against Afghanistan

Kabul, September 26
Thousands of angry Afghans today stormed and set afire the long-deserted US Embassy in Kabul, as part of huge protests against the threatened US strikes.

Two Taliban fighters climbed on to the building and used a hammer and an iron rod to rip off the US seal from over the main door to the old office of the ambassador.

All US diplomats and staff left the embassy just before the erstwhile Soviet Union abandoned its occupation of Afghanistan in 1989 and the USA has maintained only a skeleton local staff and has no diplomatic ties with the isolated purist Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.

“Death to Bush,” shouted tens of thousands of protesters, mostly government officials and students, who marched through the city to protest against US demands that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in this month’s devastating suicide plane attacks.

“We will support Islam and Bin Laden,” they chanted.

The protesters burnt an effigy of President George W. Bush, ripped apart a US flag and hurled stones at the gates and offices of the embassy before setting it alight.

Several marchers and Taliban fighters were injured by stones.

“The US Government should learn a lesson from our defeat of the Russians and the British,” they shouted.

“Others like them and their embassy, they will be trampled under the feet of the Muslims and Afghans,” one protester said.

“God is great,” shouted the demonstrators. A huge plume of smoke spiralled into the sky above the compound and Taliban fighters tried to disperse the crowd.

In another development the USA withdrew the American staff from its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city.

The consulate, the smallest of three in Pakistan, had only three US staff. Embassy spokesman Mark Wentworth said one person had left the country and two were now working in the embassy in Islamabad.

Mr Wentworth said he did not believe the closure was related to security concerns and the other consulates, in Peshawar and Karachi, remained open.

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: But on the borders of Afghanistan, the United Nations and others in the humanitarian community focussed on the plight of civilians there and prepared for an exodus of up to 1.5 million frightened and hungry refugees.

Britain, Bush’s staunchest ally, yesterday told the Taliban that the coalition would treat them as its enemy if they did not hand over Washington’s chief suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

War and hunger have already made Afghans the world’s largest refugee population — a tally of about 3.7 million to date.

Voices across the Islamic world have urged caution, the latest being the United Arab Emirates, until last Saturday one of just three countries to recognise the Taliban government.

“I call on the USA to pause for reflection and give a chance to diplomacy and all legal means before it resorts to military action,” UAE Defence Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum said in a statement today.

“The international community must expect a human catastrophe whose features have already started to emerge in the waves of Afghan refugees flooding into Pakistan,’’ he added.

Neighbour Pakistan, the only country recognising the Taliban after Saudi Arabia broke ties yesterday, said it had no plan to open its borders to new arrivals, but did not rule out the idea.

Meanwhile Pakistan froze the bank accounts of militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Karachi-based Al Rashid Trust, included in the list of individuals and organisations identified as being linked to terrorism by US President George W. Bush.

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said Tehran would not “provide any help to the USA or its allies in their-attack” against Afghanistan, state radio reported.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not provide any help to the USA or its allies in their attack”, Khamenei said during a meeting with family members of those killed or injured in Iran’s 1980-1988 war with neighbouring Iraq.

“You, who have always caused blows to Iran’s interests, how dare you request help (from us) in order to attack the innocent Muslim nation of Afghanistan which has suffered and which is our neighbour,” Khamenei said.

Iran was swift to condemn the September 11 attacks on the USA with which it has no diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution, raising hopes of a warming of relations between the two.

Also today, moderate Iranian President Mohammad Khatami branded his US counterpart George W. Bush “arrogant” for allegedly thinking that he can “distinguish between good and bad on his own”, the state news agency IRNA said. Reuters, PTI, AFPBack


Opposition wrests key areas
Bush asks Afghans to rout 'terrorists'

Moscow, September 26
After two days of fierce fighting, Afghanistan’s opposition Northern Alliance forces have knocked out the ruling Taliban from three strategic heights in Takhar province, clearing that path for launching a massive offensive to liberate the key town of Imam Sahib captured by the militia last year, Russian media reported today.

According to reports reaching here from Northern Alliance’s headquarter’s at Khoja Bahautdin, hundreds of Taliban members and Pakistani nationals have been taken prisoners in the course of the fresh offensive, state RTR TV reported.

The number of prisoners and casualties on both sides could not be independently confirmed, the state TV said. The opposition military headquarters described the news report about capturing of Bagram airbase by its forces as “factually wrong”.

“We are controlling this key airbase for more than two years,” ORT TV quoted a spokesman of the Rabbani-led Opposition as saying.

Pakistani regulars abandoned positions in north Afghanistan as opposition forces advanced.

Meanwhile, US President George Bush has called on Afghans tired of the Taliban regime to cooperate with the US mission to rout terrorists.

“The mission is to rout terrorists. And one way to do that is to ask for the cooperation of citizens within Afghanistan who may be tired of having the Taliban in place, people from foreign soils in their own lands, willing to finance this repressive government,” he said. PTIBack

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