Saturday, November 17, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

US jets rain bombs on Kandahar
Taliban building destroyed * Heavy fighting rages for Kunduz
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, November 16
A day before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, US jets today carried out one of the heaviest bombing raids on Taliban stronghold of Kandahar hitting the militia’s Foreign Ministry building and a mosque even as fighting raged around northern Afghan city of Kunduz where several thousand Taliban and Al-Qaida fighters were holding out against opposition forces and US airstrikes.

Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported that heavy US bombing of Kandahar last night and today destroyed Taliban Foreign Ministry building and a mosque in the eastern part of the city.

It also claimed that 11 civilians were killed and 25 injured in the US bombing raids.

Reports reaching here said the Taliban were digging in and building new defensive positions to defend Kandahar, the base of the militia supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Northern Alliance forces have laid a siege to the northern city of Kunduz and were engaged in fierce fighting with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 foreigners, mostly Arabs and Pakistanis, loyal to Osama bin Laden.

Northern Alliance, which took over Kabul without a fight earlier this week, said there have also been popular uprisings in the eastern provinces of Laghman, Logar, Kunar and Nangahar and that the Taliban have abandoned the central province of Uruzgan.

Taliban have withdrawn from the eastern city of Jalalabad, said to be the hub of Al-Qaida’s terrorist training.

US special forces have begun searching potential weapons of mass destruction sites in Afghanistan, but so far have made no substantial finds, the commander of the US military campaign said.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also said yesterday they were checking a report by a journalist of ‘The Times’ daily who said he stumbled on a trove of partly burnt documents with detailed designs of missiles, bombs and nuclear weapons in a hastily abandoned safehouse in Kabul.

"We saw it. We’re checking it," Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington with Army General Tommy Franks, the commander of the US campaign in Afghanistan.

Franks said a list of potential weapons of mass destruction sites have been drawn up from all the US intelligence feeds over the last two or three months.

"Now we are about the business of checking those sites out as they fall under our control," he said. "We have no substantial findings at this point."

US officials said Northern Alliance Forces in Kabul had captured some senior Al-Qaida and Taliban leaders but Bin Laden or Omar were not among them. They said the USA would be extremely interested in any intelligent information that the detainees could offer on Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

US air raids earlier this week on Kabul and Kandahar killed several Al-Qaida and Taliban leaders, US officials said.

According to them, 50 to 60 per cent of Afghanistan is now under some form of opposition control but Taliban remained a credible fighting force.

Even as Pakistan began deploying 1,000 extra troops along a sensitive stretch of its border with Afghanistan, reports from Peshawar said fighters from Taliban army beaten in Afghanistan were taking refuge in tribal zones across the border in Pakistan, taking more than their guns.

Abdul Samad Momand, one of the opposition commanders who took part in the seizing of four provinces in eastern Afghanistan from the Taliban, said supporters of the ousted Taliban regime had managed to cross the frontier.

He accused the governor of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan of taking refuge in Pakistan with money from the local state bank.

Pakistan moved to deploy the extra troops along the border amid fears that Taliban fighters might try to sneak into the country.

The reinforcements will be backed by six tanks sent yesterday to the area around Chaman -- the main border crossing close to the southwestern city of Quetta. PTI



Taliban to withdraw from Kandahar

Islamabad, November 16
The beleaguered Taliban have decided to withdraw from their southern stronghold of Kandahar and head for Afghanistan’s mountains, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency said today.

Quoting its own sources, AIP said Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had decided to hand over the city to the control of two former mujahideen commanders after several days of discussions with his military commanders and close aides. Reuters



Talks on for Taliban surrender

Taloqan, November 16
Northern Alliance forces held talks today to persuade thousands of Taliban dug into their last northern bastion of Kunduz to surrender, a commander said.

“There are talks going on for the Taliban surrender. Those who refuse will be killed,” said General Mohammad Daud.

The Governor of Kunduz had called for a two-day grace period before the Northern Alliance attack the city in order to evacuate citizens, according to Daud.

“At the end of two days, we will attack.” AFP



Osama aide Atef killed

Washington, November 16
Mohammed Atef, a top deputy of Osama bin Laden accused of helping plan the September 11 terror attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center is believed to have been killed by a US airstrike in the past two days, US officials said today.

"This guy was bin Laden’s military specialist since the early 1990s, widely thought to be bin Laden’s successor in the event of his death," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The airstrike took place near Kabul, the Afghan capital, the official, said adding that the US intelligence had credible evidence atef was killed. But another official said Atef’s body had not been located.

Atef, an Egyptian, has been indicted for involvement in the US Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.

The death of bin Laden’s operational planner is expected to hurt the ability of the al-Qaida network to launch terrorist attacks. The group’s members are being pursued in Afghanistan by US special forces and rebels opposed to the Taliban regime.

Earlier this year, Atef’s daughter married bin Laden’s son. TV footage of the wedding was broadcast on an Arab satellite station in January.

The focus of the US campaign in Afghanistan has shifted more toward tracking down bin Laden and al-Qaida leaders, who are thought to be hiding in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban still retain some control. AP



Pro-Taliban rallies

Islamabad, November 16
Hardline Islamic groups staged small pro-Taliban rallies in major Pakistani cities today. “Musharraf is a dog,” shouted around 800 to 900 protesters in Islamabad. The rally organised by the Afghan Defence Council, an alliance of 35 Islamic groups, burned a US flag and an effigy of President George W. Bush. In Peshawar and Quetta, barely 1,000 to 2,000 persons staged peaceful rallies. In Karachi, 400 persons turned out at the rally. AP


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