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Bin Laden hideouts bombed

Islamabad, October 25
The USA for the first time used cluster bombs on Taliban frontlines as it intensified air strikes on the militia headquarters of Kandahar and the key town of Mazar-e-Sharif amidst reports that anti-Taliban Afghan forces were gearing up to open a second front of ground attack in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed several civilian casualties, including one of a bombing of a packed bus in Kandahar in which everyone on board perished. “At least 40, perhaps 50 persons, might have been killed though the exact numbers are not known,” Taliban Education Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the USA has attacked suspected hideouts of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province bordering Pakistan, witnesses said today.

“We have been hearing the roar of US planes and bombing of the Gora Tangi area for the past four days,” a witness in the Kurram tribal area in neighbouring northwestern Pakistan said.

Two US planes struck the Gora Tangi area in Paktia province yesterday evening. There were no reports of casualties.

The Saudi-born millionaire Bin Laden, prime suspect in last month’s attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, is believed to have built a maze of tunnels in the Gora Tangi area during the US-backed war of resistance against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.

Paktia borders Khost province, which came under cruise missile attacks by the USA in August, 1998, when the USA targeted a militant training camp allegedly run by Bin Laden.

As the USA intensified its military campaign, Britain is reportedly poised to send ground troops in Afghanistan.

BBC radio and television quoting senior defence sources said around 600 Royal Marine commandos and several hundred special forces, including groups especially trained in mountain and winter warfare, currently engaged in exercise in Oman were set for deployment.

Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal today praised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s "bold and courageous decision" to join the coalition against terrorism during talks here, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

It said the prince also delivered a special royal message from King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to the President, the contents of which were not revealed.

"He had detailed discussions with the President on all aspects of the evolving situation in Afghanistan," the ministry said in a statement.

ISTRES (France): France has beefed up its military involvement in the US-led conflict with Afghanistan by contributing spy planes and more ships, French President Jacques Chirac said on Thursday.

"France has... recently strongly reinforced its capacity to gather intelligence by deploying new naval and particularly aerial means," Mr Chirac said during a visit to an airbase in southern France.

"This deployment will allow us to contribute in an effective manner to operations in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorist networks and those that support them," he added.

Mr Chirac declined to give further details, but a source close to the President said France would send a ship that would act as a listening post and a military intelligence C160 plane. PTI, ReutersBack

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