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US Continues Strikes Against Afghanistan; Powell in Islamabad - 2001-10-15


U.S. warplanes continued bombarding sites across Afghanistan in daylight Monday, in a second week of its bid to flush out suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and his supporters. Pakistan is vital to the effort, but anti-American protests are mounting. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is visiting the Pakistani capital in a bid to shore up support.

Most businesses in the Pakistani border cities of Quetta and Peshawar were shuttered Monday, heeding a national strike call by Islamic religious leaders, angry over their government's support for the U.S. led bombing campaign.

Other cities have also been affected, including the southern city of Jacobabad, where anti-American protesters clashed with police Sunday, leaving one person dead and more than 20 others injured. Hundreds of people are reported to still be gathered near the town, angry over reports that U.S. personnel are using the city's airport. Witnesses described Monday's attacks on targets in Afghanistan as the strongest of the campaign.

Afghanistan's ruling Taleban says more than 300 civilians have been killed. There has been no independent confirmation of the claims, though a group of foreign journalists in Afghanistan reported seeing major damage on a village the Taleban says was flattened by the bombing campaign. Pakistan's newspapers have been widely reporting the unconfirmed casualty claims and religious leaders have been using them to fuel anti-American sentiment. Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan says that is one of the reasons Pakistan hopes the strikes will end soon. "Prolongation of the military operations will be a source of concern to us because with the prolongation of the campaign you can always expect mishaps in which innocent lives will be lost," he said.

Pakistan has repeatedly stressed that it regrets any innocent loss of life and Mr. Khan says Pakistani leaders expect to receive a progress report on the campaign when they meet with Secretary Powell. Mr. Powell is also expected to address Pakistani concerns over the possible makeup of a future Afghan government in case the Taleban falls.

He is also aiming to quell tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region that both countries claim. Pakistan has given diplomatic support to militants in the region fighting Indian rule and recent attacks there have caused added strain between the two sides.

Mr. Powell is planning to visit New Delhi later this week.

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