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Taleban Claims 70 Civilians Killed in Airstrikes - 2001-10-11

Taleban authorities say more than 70 civilians have been killed in air and missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says no U.S. combat troops are currently using Pakistani military facilities.

The Taleban claims of civilian casualties cannot be independently confirmed. Taleban Ambassador Abdul Salaam Zaeef says there are numerous reports of civilians being killed, especially in Afghanistan's eastern Nangahar province near the city of Jalalabad. The area around the city has been struck repeatedly in recent days by air and missile strikes.

U.S. officials say Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaida organization have used camps and caves in the surrounding hills as a base for their operations.

Ambassador Zaeef also says the Taleban have not allowed Osama bin Laden to declare a "jihad" or holy war against the United States, while he remains a "guest" of the Taleban. The Taleban Ambassador says while Osama bin Laden cannot use Afghanistan as a base to attack anyone, he is free to speak out. Earlier, Taleban authorities said the Saudi fugitive was free to attack the United States.

As air and missile attacks continued against targets in Afghanistan late Thursday, officials in Pakistan denied reports in several leading Pakistani newspapers that U.S. combat troops are now stationed on Pakistani soil, at several bases in the southern and western parts of the country.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aziz Khan was asked about the reported presence of U.S. combat troops at a briefing late Thursday. "At the moment there are no reports of any combat troops in Pakistan," he said. "But having said that I will say please refrain from asking any questions concerning the military situation."

While he denied the presence of U.S. combat troops on Pakistani soil, Mr. Khan would not comment on whether other U.S. troops providing logistical support to the operation in Afghanistan were present in Pakistan. Pakistan says it is providing its air space, as well as intelligence and logistical support to the operation.