Monday, October 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

US jets pound Kandahar, Kabul
Bush allays fears on anthrax

Kabul/Washington, October 14
Intense overnight US airstrikes on Afghanistan were concentrated on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Kabul and three other cities and the scale of casualties was “very high,” the Taliban said today.

A senior Taliban military official, who did not want to be identified, said US forces had struck the militia’s military base at Qeshla Jadeed, about 4 km from the centre of Kandahar.

He did not know if any troops had been at the base when it was hit.

The city’s airport was again pounded and US warplanes had also struck targets in the surrounding mountains, he added.

In Kabul, the airport, a defunct television transmitter on a hill near the centre of the city known as TV mountain, and the Qargha area in the west of the city were hit.

Targets in Herat, the main city of western Afghanistan, Jalalabad in the east and the strategic northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, which opposition forces are attempting to reclaim, were also struck, the officer said.

The officer could not provide specific details of whether civilians had been killed but insisted that there had been large numbers of fatalities in both the Jalalabad and Kandahar areas because of US attempts to target training camps of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network.

“In the countryside the scale of casualties is very high,” he said. “It seems that the Americans believe every village in the mountains is a training camp.”

Arab TV network Al-Jazeera today broadcast pictures of the bombed-out village of Kadam, near Jalalabad. The Taliban claims at least 160 persons died when the village and nearby caves were attacked by US warplanes last week.

The first strikes on Jalalabad hit an army installation and injured at least six persons, the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said. Two more bombs exploded on the outskirts, believed to be dotted with guerrilla camps.

“America has just wasted another $ 1,000,’’ laughed Taliban fighter Hafiz Ahmed Jan after the last bomb reverberated over the silent town, where the Taliban say up to 200 persons were killed in air raids last week. “All Afghanistan is filled with mountains and rocks. There is nothing else. America will find nothing.”

The raids also brought defiant responses from Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Al-Qaida warned the USA and Britain to end the air strikes and get out of the Gulf or suffer more violent attacks and a “storm of hijacked planes,” a threat the Bush administration dismissed as propaganda.

Hours earlier, US President George W. Bush had sought to allay fears of possible germ warfare attacks after several confirmed cases of anthrax, a deadly biological bacteria that can be used as a weapon, in Florida, New York and Nevada.

In his weekly radio address to the nation, Mr Bush said authorities were taking “strong precautions” as law enforcement agencies remained on high alert after the FBI warned on Thursday of possible attacks in the coming days.

The Taliban flatly rejected the latest call by Mr Bush to hand over Bin Laden in return for halting the air strikes.

“We once again want to say that their (the USA) intention is a war against Muslims and Afghans,” said Taliban Information Minister Mullah Qudratullah Jamal. “Osama is not the issue and people have realised this by the crimes they are committing.”

In a statement broadcast on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera television network yesterday, Al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith told USA and British “infidels” to leave the Gulf or else “fire will flare underneath their feet.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the statement was a clear admission of responsibility for the September 11 attacks.

“It can leave no one in any doubt of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida’s intention to continue to conduct, incite and support acts of terrorism. This is why we are determined to bring Bin Laden, his Al-Qaida network and those who support and harbour them to account,” Mr Blair said in a statement.

Britain’s Sunday Mirror newspaper quoted Bin Laden’s 18-year-old son Abdullah in Pakistan as saying his father was hiding in a cave in the Afghan mountains with 300 commandos and satellite equipment and would never be caught.

“America and Britain will never track down my father,” he said. “He has vanished into the landscape — he is invisible.”

The Taliban estimates that more than 300 persons, mostly civilians, have been killed since air raids began on October 7 and yesterday the Pentagon acknowledged a 2,000-pound (900 kg) bomb had hit a house in Kabul after missing its target at the airport. At least one person died and four were wounded by the bomb.

“We regret the loss of any civilian life,” the US Defence Department said in a statement. “Preliminary indications are that the accident occurred from a targeting process error.”

The strikes have cut off much of Kabul’s communication links with the world, Taliban officials said on Sunday.

With US planes dropping smart bombs and missiles on one of the world’s most backward countries, Mr Bush declared the first phase of the military campaign a success.

“American forces dominate the skies over Afghanistan and we will use that dominance to make sure terrorists can no longer freely use Afghanistan as a base of operations,” he said.

Mr Bush had earlier assured jittery Americans the country’s law enforcement agencies were on high alert amid fears the postal system was being used to wage biological warfare.

The US military had Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in its sights on the first night of its bombing raids but failed to kill him, according to the “New Yorker” magazine.

In an excerpt released yesterday from the forthcoming issue, journalist Seymour Hersh cites intelligence and military sources on the incident, which reportedly had Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “kicking a lot of glass and breaking doors.”

In Pakistan’s southern Jacobabad, one person was killed and 12 injured today when police fired in the air and used teargas against stone-throwing demonstrators protesting against the presence of US forces at the local airport, witnesses said.

About 20,000 persons attended a protest march against the bombings in London and 14,000 protesters marched in Berlin.

DASHKI KALA: Northern Alliance forces shelled advancing Taliban reserves in the north-eastern province of Takhar, according to Novosti.

Fearing missile and air strikes in major districts of Takhar province the Taliban militia was pulling out its reserves and moving them closer to the Northern Alliance’s positions, Gen Naim Nuri, artillery commander of the United Front, said. Agencies


USA to get bitter lesson: Omar

Riyadh, October 14
Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar pledged in an interview printed today that his Islamic militia will teach the USA “a much more bitter lesson” than that taught to the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

“It’s true that we have not started our real battle against the USA because of their technological superiority,” he told the Saudi daily Al-Watan. “But — God willing — we will not greet them with roses,” Omar said. AFP

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