Tuesday, October 23, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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US jets bomb frontline posts
China, Russia want political solution


At least 50 patients were killed when bombs dropped during a US air raid struck a hospital in the eastern Afghan city of Herat, an official from the ruling Taliban said. “During last night’s raids on the 100-bed Herat hospital, 50 to 70 persons were killed,” Information Ministry official Abdul Hanan Himat said in Kabul.

Islamabad/Kabul, October 22
In an apparent move to help the opposition Northern Alliance advance on major Afghan cities, US jets today pounded Taliban positions near frontlines outside Kabul amidst indications that the USA wanted progress on the ground before the onset of winter.

Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed to have shot down another US helicopter and its wreckage was shown by Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV network. However, Pentagon immediately dismissed it as a “Taliban lie”.

Al-Jazeera showed pictures of landing gear, tyres, metallic pieces and large casing stamped with words “Boeing” and “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

The USA acknowledged the loss of a helicopter with two crew in an accident in Pakistan on Friday.

Many countries, including China and Russia, have called for a switch from military action in Afghanistan to political efforts, as the US bombardment of the country entered its third week.

In a TV image released on Monday, Afghans stand next to aircraft wheels found near the southern city of Kandahar.
In a TV image released on Monday, Afghans stand next to aircraft wheels found near the southern city of Kandahar. Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban said they had found pieces from a US helicopter, and Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite TV station showed close-up television footage of what it said the Taliban described as new aircraft wheels and a piece of metal stencilled with English words. — Reuters photo

While expressing their support for the US fight against terrorism, Washington’s allies stressed that the aim of the American military campaign which began on October 7 was above all to destroy the network of Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, and any overlap with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban regime.

“It is necessary to move on quickly from the military phase to political means in search of a solution in Afghanistan,” a spokesman for the Russian presidency in Shanghai said yesterday, summarising a discussion on the margins of the APEC summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the USA was “very interested” in seeing rebel forces take Mazar-e-Sharif, but was still discussing about whether a rebel march into Kabul would be the best thing.”

US jets mounted fierce attacks at the front outside Mazar-e-Sharif throughout the night, devastating two heavily fortified bases that had been guarding the southern approach to the city, said Bismillah Khan, the opposition commander.

The US attacks damaged tanks and artillery sites and destroyed an ammunition depot, the said.

“We are happy because their two bases were major fortifications. And now we are optimistic about launching a successful attack to reach Mazar-e-Sharif,” the commander said.

Today saw a break in US attacks on Taliban sites in Kabul. Skies over Kabul were quiet through the night and into the day.

The lull followed a US air raid yesterday that shattered two homes in the city’s northern Khair Khana district killing at 13 civilians, including three women and four boys.

Meanwhile, the Taliban accused the USA of deploying chemical and biological weapons in their attacks to flush out Osama bin Laden.

The USA quickly denied the chemical weapons charges.

“This is absolutely not true,” a Pentagon spokesman said in Washington.

The Taliban also claimed that the Northern Alliance troops commanded by Gen Abdur Rashid Dostum had been driven away from Mazar-e-Sharif.

“They have been driven back from the main city,” a Taliban diplomat said in Islamabad.

The Education Minister of the Taliban regime, Amirkhan Muttaki, said: “Five Northern Alliance soldiers, including two warlords, have been executed,” He was quoted as saying by Novosti that the Taliban had seized Chaghcharan, the capital of the Ghor province, yesterday. The Northern Alliance, however denied this report.

Speaking on the US ground operations, Muttaki stated the Taliban had killed 20-25 US commandos. Agencies
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