Thursday, October 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Civilian areas hit by mistake, admits USA
Afghan opposition claims first advance

Kabul/Washington, October 24
US planes attacked Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban on the frontline north of Kabul early today as Washington admitted to mistakenly hitting civilian areas in earlier bombing raids.

Anti-Taliban forces inside Afghanistan today made their first territorial gains under the cover of simultaneous US air attacks on their enemies’ frontlines, an opposition commander said.

The commander, Mohammad Atta, said his forces in the Dara-e-Souf valley, 70 km south of the key northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, had mounted an offensive towards the district of Keshendeh during the night.

He said “wave after wave” of US air attacks on the enemy lines had enabled his men to win control of four villages in fighting which left between 70 and 80 Taliban troops dead. He would not say what the advance represented in terms of distance.

Afghan elder Sayed Ahmad Gailani opened a meeting in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar with a call for the moderate Taliban to join his Assembly of Peace and National Unity of Afghanistan in the search for a peaceful future.

“Efforts should be made to stop the military operation and start work on reconstruction of the country as early as possible,’’ he said, referring to the military campaign to flush out Osama bin Laden and punish his Taliban protectors.

But the sole foreign envoy of the isolated hardline Taliban today vowed the movement would not hand over Bin Laden.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef said Afghanistan was ready to attack the USA — if only it had the resources — and vowed to kill Americans in revenge for their killing of Afghans.

“If they were to kill all of the nation of Afghanistan, we will not hand over Bin Laden because we have law, we have respect for the honour of Afghanistan,’’ Zaeef, Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, told Reuters in an interview.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon yesterday admitted that US aircraft had mistakenly dropped one 454 kg bomb near a home for the elderly and two 227 kg bombs in a residential area outside Kabul, lending credence to repeated Taliban accusations that the air war is killing civilians.

Meanwhile, Taliban gunners opened fire today at four military aircraft which flew over Kabul, witnesses said.

No explosions were heard in the latest operation which followed a night in which nine bombs were dropped on the Afghan capital, controlled by the Taliban militia, by US warplanes.

Witnesses said the depleted anti-aircraft guns in Kabul opened fire as the latest jets flew over.

ISLAMABAD: US bombing has killed 52 persons in a village near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on Wednesday.

The village, identified as Chakor Kariz, about 40 km southeast of Kandahar, was bombed by US-led forces yesterday, killing 52 persons, most of them nomads, AIP said quoting unnamed sources.

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban today said they were arming villagers to resist US ground attacks and vowed to fight to the last man.

“Now our decision is to form armed groups in villages and all provinces of Afghanistan to confront the USA and its friends in a possible commando operation”, Education Minister Amir Khan Muttaqui told Reuters Television in an interview. Reuters, AFP

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