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U.S. Slams Taliban Targets in Kabul (AP)

by Associated Press Friday, Oct. 19, 2001 at 3:46 PM

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

U.S. Slams Taliban Targets in Kabul  

Thursday October 18 11:10 AM ET

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 confirmed.

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 Afghan civilians.

Medecins sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, shut down medical operations in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday after its offices there were sacked.

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 humanitarian operations.

Aid groups say 2 million Afghans are in great need of aid.


EDITOR'S NOTE - Gannon contributed to this report from Islamabad, Pakistan.


Earlier Stories
U.S. Jets Hammer Central Kabul (October 18)
U.S. Jets Pound Heart of Kabul (October 18)
U.S. Jets Intensify Attacks on Kabul (October 17)
Taliban, Foes Fight in Northern City (October 17)
Taliban, Foes Locked in Seesaw Fight (October 17)
Opposition Forces Hit Taliban City (October 17)

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Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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