Wednesday, October 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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Fierce battle to wrest Mazar-e-Sharif

Islamabad, October 23
Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum today said his forces were locked in fierce exchanges with fighters of the ruling Taliban in the long-stalled battle for the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

“Our forces launched an attack yesterday and the fighting has been fierce,” he said by satellite phone from his position near the frontline.

Dostum said his troops had mounted an offensive against the fundamentalist Taliban yesterday at 3.00 p.m. In Keshendeh district, some 40 km south of the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif, that lies near the Uzbekistan border.

“The fighting is still going on,” he said in a brief interview.

“They (the Taliban) left many dead on the battlefield,” he said, but declined to give more details.

The Northern Alliance, of which Dostum is a member, has been in a standoff to the south of Mazar-e-Sharif — a prize that was once the stronghold of the ethnic Uzbek warlord and which he is eager to recapture.

The battle remained under way throughout today, said Northern Alliance spokesman Mohammad Habeel, and he stressed that the opposition had inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban militia.

“Heavy fighting is still going on,” he said.

“The Taliban have suffered serious losses,” he said without giving any details.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Meanwhile, five truckers were burnt to death when US warplanes attacked their oil tankers near Kandahar, the spiritual centre of Afghanistan’s Islamic Taliban leadership, today, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.

Ten other crew members of the convoy of five tankers were wounded in the attack which took place 8 km out of the city on the highway. The tankers were bringing oil from the western city of Herat, bordering Iran, according to the Pakistan-based agency.

AIP said US warplanes also bombed the Khairkhana locality of Kabul, the Afghan capital, today. Some military installations exist in the area but details of what the bombs hit were not immediately known, the agency said.

A US bomb fell on a mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat killing and injuring people praying inside, the Taliban said today. Abdul Hanan Hemat, head of the Taliban’s Bakhtar information agency, said the mosque victims were among 15 persons killed and 25 injured in overnight bombing by US warplanes in Herat.

KABUL: US planes on Tuesday pounded Taliban frontline positions north of Kabul and near a strategic northern city for a third successive day as the Afghan opposition said it intended to surround Kabul but not roll into the capital.

Witnesses said they could not see the exact targets but the US bombs hit known concentrations of Taliban troops and anti-aircraft emplacements. The witnesses said planes could also be seen flying towards the frontlines later in the morning.

US defence officials said for the first time the air strikes were targeting Taliban troops protecting Kabul and also Mazar-e-Sharif, the northern city that commands a strategic east-west highway and is also the key supply link to Kabul.

Four or five loud explosions were heard north of Kabul in the morning after a jet flew over the capital, a witness said.

The strikes on Kabul resumed after the capital had enjoyed a day free of bombing as the US-led military strikes — aimed at flushing out Osama bin Laden and his followers and punishing the Taliban for protecting them — entered their 17th day.

He also said four persons were killed in a bombing raid near the Taliban’s stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

The mosque was in the Qalae Shaier district of Herat and was destroyed in the attack, Hemat said. Reuters, DPA
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Afghans burn US leaflets

Kabul, October 23
Afghan people are burning propaganda leaflets being dropped by US planes hoping to turn the population against the Taliban, a senior militia official said today.

Abdul Hanan Hemat, head of the Taliban’s Bakhter information agency, said Afghans had been offended by a picture in the leaflets showing a member of the militia beating a woman dressed in the traditional ‘burqa’.

The US planes have been dropping propaganda material along with food parcels in many cities and villages in concert with bombing raids on key Taliban targets.

Broadcasts by the USA to the stricken country have warned people to stay away from key roads and bridges and not to get in the way of US military operations.

Mr Hemat said in the eastern city of Jalalabad, American radios and leaflets “were collected together by the local people and burned.”

He said the images of a fighter beating an Afghan woman was considered “an attack on our traditions and our religious values.” AFPBack

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