U.S. Slams Taliban Targets in Kabul
Thursday October 18 11:10 AM
U.S. Slams Taliban Targets in Kabul
By KATHY GANNON and AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writers
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - U.S. jets attacked targets in the heart
of Afghanistan's capital Thursday. Residents said at least five civilians
- including four members of one family - were killed when bombs crashed into
residential areas in Kabul.
With the air campaign in its 12th day came the first report that the
bombing had killed a prominent figure in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
A London-based Islamic group said an Egyptian who was a veteran al-Qaida
fighter died in a U.S. strike on Sunday.
In Washington, defense sources said U.S. special forces were now in
place aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in the Indian Ocean - ready for any search-and-destroy
missions ordered against bin Laden and his Taliban allies.
Two houses were destroyed in Kabul's Quilazaman Khan neighborhood,
located near a Taliban tank unit. Neighbors said the four family members
were killed when a bomb hit the area. Rescuers were digging through the rubble
looking for a fifth family member. A 16-year-old girl was also killed in
a nearby housing complex.
The number of casualties could not be immediately confirmed. The United
States has said it is only targeting Taliban and al-Qaida installations and
has expressed regret for any unintended casualties.
The London-based Islamic Observation Center said an Egyptian known
by the nom de guerre Abu Baseer al-Masri was killed by a U.S. strike near
the northeastern city of Jalalabad. Al-Masri, a member of the Egyptian radical
group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, had been in Afghanistan for 10 years with al-Qaida
and was close to bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, say former
fighters in Afghanistan.
The center said two of al-Masri's comrades, a Chinese Muslim and a
Yemeni, were injured in the attack. The report could not be independently
Attacks on the capital began before dawn Thursday when U.S. warplanes
pounded areas around the presidential palace and beyond, drawing heavy anti-aircraft
barrages. Flames rose from the airport north of the city.
Taliban Information Ministry officials said the strikes were blasting
the city's Shash Tarak district - not far from Quialazaman Khan - an area
where the Taliban Defense Ministry, a garrison and a tank unit are located,
as well as the long-abandoned U.S. Embassy.
In Kandahar, the Taliban's headquarters in southern Afghanistan, U.S.
jets struck military targets throughout the city, Taliban officials reported.
Residents said by telephone Wednesday that Taliban fighters in the city were
handing out weapons to civilians. New strikes were also reported in Jalalabad,
targeting the airport.
President Bush told a flag-waving crowd Wednesday that American airstrikes
were ``paving the way for friendly troops on the ground,'' his clearest suggestion
yet that U.S. military officials were taking Afghanistan's northern-based
opposition alliance into account in their campaign. Bush ordered the bombing
starting Oct. 7 to root out bin Laden, chief suspect in last month's terrorist
attacks in the United States.
Opposition forces have been locked in combat for days in what U.S.
defense officials described as a seesaw battle for Mazar-e-Sharif, the major
city of the north.
A Taliban Information Ministry official in Kabul, Abdul Hanan Himat,
acknowledged the Taliban had lost control of some areas around Mazar-e-Sharif
but insisted the Islamic regime's forces had pushed its enemy back during
one battle to the south.
Afghanistan's opposition forces are an alliance made up largely of
minority ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks. Control of Mazar-e-Sharif would allow
them to consolidate supply lines along the borders with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan,
from which they obtain weapons.
In Washington, defense officials said U.S. special forces units themselves
were now poised to join the battle on the ground, if called for.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials said helicopter-borne
special operations forces were put aboard the USS Kitty Hawk several days
ago. The officials stressed that did not necessarily mean the troops were
about to enter combat.
In northwestern Pakistan, a militant Muslim leader said Thursday that
pro-Taliban groups there were ready to offer tens of thousands of volunteers
to help the Taliban if U.S. ground troops joined the fight.
``The day American troops land on the soil of Afghanistan, our youths
are fully trained,'' said Maulana Samiul Haq, president of the Afghan Defense
Council, a coalition of 35 pro-Taliban groups.
Aid groups, meanwhile, complained that looting by the Taliban and
other armed bands was hampering desperately needed relief operations for
Medecins sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, shut down medical
operations in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday after its offices there
In Kabul, Taliban officials returned one of two U.N. World Food Program
grain warehouses commandeered at gunpoint this week. There was no word on
the warehouse still in Taliban hands.
New York-based Human Rights Watch blamed the Taliban and foreign Arabs
believed linked to al-Qaida for some of the spate of attacks on international
Aid groups say 2 million Afghans are in great need of aid.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Gannon contributed to this report from Islamabad,
U.S. Jets Hammer Central Kabul
U.S. Jets Pound Heart of Kabul
U.S. Jets Intensify Attacks on Kabul
Taliban, Foes Fight in Northern City
Taliban, Foes Locked in Seesaw Fight
Opposition Forces Hit Taliban City
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