Wednesday, October 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Raids intensified on Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif
Mullah Omar escapes *4 UN workers killed

Islamabad/Kabul, October 9
Intensifying the offensive, the USA today carried out for the first time daylight air strikes in Afghanistan and followed it up with fresh attacks at night mainly, targeting the spiritual headquarters of the Taliban in Kandahar and the residence of its supremo Mullah Mohammed Omar who is said to be safe.

In late night attacks for the third consecutive day, the allied warplanes pounded Kandahar and the northwestern city of Herat even as first independent confirmation was available of five civilian deaths, including four UN workers engaged in mine-clearing operations.

The Taliban responded with a burst of anti-aircraft gun fire but apparently failed to target the jets because of their high altitude flight path and darkness.

In the Kandahar attack, Taliban sources said the home of Omar, 15 km away from the city, came under attack.

Communications facilities and air defences at Kandahar airport have taken a great knock as American planes had been flying over Kandahar almost continuously during the day.

Herat, too, came under strong attack tonight with the target being city airport and military sites on its outskirts.

Earlier, shortly after daybreak, US fighters bombed Kandahar around the house of Mullah Omar, who an aide said survived the attack as he had left the place only 15 minutes earlier. Bin Laden is also safe in Afghanistan, Taliban’s Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salaam Zaeef said in Islamabad.

But just outside Kabul, rescue workers dug through the rubble of a UN-funded office today to recover the remains of four men killed by a missile as they slept. The four worked with the UN, clearing landmines in Afghanistan.

The UN coordinator for Afghanistan appeals to the international community to protect innocent civilians from military attacks,” Ms Stephanie Bunker, UN spokeswoman in Pakistan, quoted coordinator Mike Sackett as saying.

The cities which came under attack included Kundus, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif as ordinary Afghans cowered in cellars and basements during the night of fear.

The attacks reportedly targeted a television tower in Kabul while one bomb fl near the city’s main 400-bed hospital and another hit a residential suburb.

The US-led strikes also gave a fresh boost to opposition Northern Alliance fighting against Taliban. They launched ground attacks in Badgis, Ghor, Balkh and Samangan provinces at times with the benefit of the American air cover.

In another development Pakistan, which has turned its heat on the militia, has seized three Taliban-owned helicopter gunships which landed in the North West Frontier Province.

The choppers, flown by Taliban pilots, took off from unnamed airstrips in Paktia province in Afghanistan, bordering the tribal areas in NWFP — and landed at a location in Kurram agency yesterday.

“The US aircraft made three attempts to attack but our anti-aircraft guns forced them to flee,” Abdul Hai Mutmaen, a spokesman of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, was quoted as saying by Afghan Islamic Press.

The Pakistan-based news agency also quoting unnamed sources said that two Taliban troops were killed in the attack but Mutmaen denied it saying there was no report of any casualties.

With financial markets watching closely for signs of how long the raids will last, US officials lowered any expectations of a rapid military victory over the Taliban.

But Britain, whose Prime Minister Tony Blair is President George W. Bush’s staunchest ally in his war on terrorism, said it expected phase one of the Afghan raids to be over in days.

“I anticipate it is more likely a matter of days rather than weeks. This is the first phase of our attacks on the Taliban regime on bringing Osama bin Laden to account,’’ British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told BBC television.

Mr Hoon said he hoped the first wave would convince the Taliban to hand over Saudi-born Bin Laden and others suspected of carrying out the devastating September suicide attacks that killed up to 5,600 persons in New York and Washington.

But USA, in a letter to the UN Security Council, raised the prospect of targets for military action outside Afghanistan.

ABOARD USS CARL VINSON: Jets from the USS Carl Vinson bombed two Afghan MiG fighters on the ground and hit at least one ‘’terrorist’’ training camp on a second day of raids from the aircraft carrier, an officer aboard said today.

Care was being taken to avoid civilian casualties, he said.

The US naval aircraft, in action throughout Monday and well into the night, encountered more anti-aircraft fire than when the strikes on Afghanistan began on Sunday, but none was hit and all returned safely, the senior officer added. Capt T.C. Bennett told reporters aboard the Vinson in the northern Arabian Sea that his aircrews in Carrier Wing Eleven were avoiding all non-military targets and had aborted strikes when targets could not be clearly identified.

“As far as I know...we have experienced no collateral damage, no ‘dumb bombs’ or ‘wild bombs’ have gone off anywhere where they weren’t aimed,’’ said Captain Bennett, the wing commander. Collateral damage is a military codeword for civilian casualties. Reuters, PTI


Suspected camp of Laden attacked

Islamabad, October 9
American planes heavily bombed the Mewand area, about 70 km west of Kandahar city, this morning as they sought out a camp where suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden might be hiding, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.

“Details of the damage caused was not known but ordinary citizens were killed in the attack,” a Taliban spokesman in Kandahar told the Pakistan-based agency. Kandahar airport and its vicinity were also bombed, according to the spokesman.

Bin Laden was believed to have set up a camp in the Mewand area, the news agency said. DPA


Bin Laden secure in mountains: Taliban

Islamabad, October 9
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia today confirmed that Osama bin Laden was alive and living in Afghanistan, the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan told CNN. “He is alive. He is not in a location that is known to the people,” Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef said.

Saudi dissident Bin Laden, who has lived as a guest of the Taliban in Afghanistan since 1996, is the main target of the US-led air strikes which began over Afghanistan on Sunday.

He and his Al-Qaeda network have been accused of plotting the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, but the Taliban have refused to hand him over without evidence.

Mr Zaeef earlier said US bombs landed near the home of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, but he was not there at the time. AFPBack


No assurance to Pak on US strikes

Washington, October 9
The USA today dismissed General Pervez Musharraf’s remark that Washington has assured him that the military operations against Afghanistan would be short.

Asked specifically whether any American official has told General Musharraf that the operations would be short, White Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters here "not to my knowledge." PTIBack


Taliban, Pak border guards exchange fire

Islamabad, October 9
Fighters of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban movement exchanged gunfire with Pakistani border guards in a remote northwestern border area early today, injuring four of them, witnesses in the area said.

The pre-dawn clash in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal district lasting about three hours occurred after Pakistani paramilitary Scouts stopped about 30 Taliban fighters who tried to enter the area, a witness said.

Four Pakistani Scouts were injured but it was not known if there were any casualties among Taliban, who returned to their own area after the gunbattle.

This was the first border clash reported between Taliban and Pakistan since the start of US-led military strikes on Afghanistan on Sunday to punish the Taliban for its refusal to hand over Bin Laden. ReutersBack



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