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USA keeps up air blitz
Laden’s suspected centres targeted

Kabul, October 30
US warplanes targeted suspected underground command centres of Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida network as also the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar amidst reports today that opposition Northern Alliance forces have mobilised hundreds of elite fighters near the frontline north of Kabul.

Kabul and the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad were also targeted overnight and there were indications that American ground forces would soon be deployed to establish a base in Afghanistan.

Pentagon said the USA directed airstrikes at caves and tunnels in Afghanistan as it pressed attacks aimed at Taliban and Al-Qaida command centres and forces.

“The objective includes continuing to focus on emerging targets, the Al-Qaida and Taliban command and control, including caves and tunnels,” Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said.

The Taliban are believed to be using Afghanistan’s extensive networks of caves and tunnels to hide command centres, forces and munitions against the US air campaign to root out terrorists blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The opposition Northern Alliance deployed hundreds of well-armed, trained, and ready for order to march elite fighters at Jabal Seraj to boost positions on frontlines north of Kabul.

A Taliban spokesman said Kandahar, which refugees have described as a rubble-strewn ghost town, was under ferocious attack on the 24th day of the campaign.

The spokesman said the bombing had focused on the district of Bagh-i-Pul in the northwestern part of the city but he had no details of casualties.

The US warplanes also bombed Taliban positions near Ai Khanun town in northeast Afghanistan close to the border with Tajikistan, dropping at least 12 bombs on the same militia lines which were targeted for the first time on Sunday, reports reaching here said.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported four deaths as a result of an overnight attack on Kandahar, quoting local sources. In Kabul, Taliban claimed a US bomb had struck and destroyed a water supply centre in the village of Veni Hihar, 8 km from the city centre.

Kabul residents had reported the first bomb in more than 24 hours dropping just after midnight. There was no response from Taliban anti-aircraft guns, which are thought to have been virtually destroyed by the US attacks.

AIP reported that three persons had been killed in the attack on Kabul.

The Taliban said US planes had also bombarded military targets in the key northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

American planes also carried out attacks overnight on Kulduz airport in northern Afghanistan and in Paktika province in the east of the country, AIP reported.

The agency said Taliban tanks came under heavy bombardment at Sharena in Paktika province. One Taliban fighter was injured but there were no details on whether any tanks were hit. One militia fighter was killed in Kulduz, AIP said.

The western city of Herat was also hit overnight but there were no details on casualties or damage.

At a Pentagon briefing, General Richard Myers, chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recent strikes had concentrated on Taliban forces in north Afghanistan and that the Northern Alliance troops were helping direct US strikes. PTI

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Pak hands over 3 N-scientists to USA

Islamabad, October 30
Pakistan has handed over three retired nuclear scientists accused of having links with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to the US authorities for investigations, media reports here said today.

Among those handed over is Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Pakistan’s retired top nuclear scientist.

Mahmood, along with two of his retired colleagues —former Chief Engineer of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Abdul Majeed, and former PAEC scientist Mirza Yousaf — have been handed over to a joint team of FBI and CIA officials for further investigations, the Pakistan Observer daily reported.

Quoting credible diplomatic and official sources, the paper said Mahmood was questioned by Pakistani intelligence agencies for alleged links with Taliban militia and Osama bin Laden.

He was released on October 26 after being “cleared” by security agencies, but was again picked up from his home on the night of October 28.

Quoting sources close to Mahmood’s family, the paper said the scientist returned home in a precarious state of mental and physical health.

Mahmood, who was again picked up on October 28, told his family while leaving that if they did not hear from him in a few days, they must deem him dead, the paper said. He has even left behind a will advising his family how to share the property, it said. PTI

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UN envoy, Pervez discuss Kabul

Islamabad, October 30
UN special envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today held “deep” discussions on the post-Taliban future of the war-ravaged country, officials said.

General Musharraf also met UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers to discuss the escalating humanitarian crisis and the looming refugee exodus in the winter.

Mr Brahimi, who arrived on Sunday, is on his first visit to the region since the USA began air strikes on October 7 to force the Taliban to hand over alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

UN officials said General Musharraf told Mr Brahimi that the UN had a “central role” to play in “urgent” efforts to assist the Afghan people, millions of whom are on the brink of famine due to relentless war and severe drought.

They “agreed on the principles that must guide the resolution of the conflict — unity of Afghans and territorial integrity must be preserved,” said Mr Brahimi’s spokesman, Eric Falt.

“A broad-based, multi-ethnic and fully representative government must come into power. The political dispensation must be home-grown and fully owned by the people,” he said.

The US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, is eager for the UN to play a transitional role to stabilise Afghanistan in the event of the Taliban’s collapse, but Mr Brahimi has insisted that only the Afghans can rule Afghanistan.

Pakistan, the Taliban’s main backer before the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA, is now Washington’s chief frontline ally in the campaign in Afghanistan. AFP

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Aussie in custody

Islamabad, October 30
A man from Sydney is being held by the Pakistani authorities, suspected of having links with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, the Australian Embassy in Pakistan confirmed today. The Morning Herald said the man was believed to be under interrogation by the ISI and the FBI. AP

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USA seeks access to more Pak air bases

Islamabad, October 30
The USA has sought more logistic and air space support from Pakistan for future military operations in Afghanistan.

A high-level US delegation, headed by the Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM (Central command), Gen Tommy R. Frank, held talks with the Pakistani President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, and senior officers of the defence forces during their brief visit to Pakistan yesterday.

According to a report in a daily, Pakistan Observer, the USA is asking for Shorkot and Mianwali air bases to create yet another air corridor which, in turn, will give the US strike helicopters and bombers quicker and easy access to the frontlines of the Taliban. UNI

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