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Southern Taleban Stronghold Is Focus of Latest US Attacks - 2001-10-18

U.S. planes have stepped-up bombing raids near the Taleban stronghold, Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. The military campaign aimed at flushing out Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network has stretched into its 12th day.

Witnesses report a series of strong explosions near Kandahar and the city's airport, as low-flying jets streaked through the skies above Afghanistan.

Taleban authorities say five people have been killed and more than ten others injured in the most recent raids there.

Bombs also hit sites near the capital, Kabul, overnight and into the morning. One strike ignited a major fuel depot, sending flames and black smoke high into the sky. Reports also say the American-led strikes are hitting Taleban positions and targets outside Mazar-i-Sharif, where Northern Alliance forces say they are battling the Taleban and are poised to recapture the key northern town.

Several relief agencies have called for a temporary halt in the hostilities to give them time to move in food and other relief supplies to avert what they say could be a serious humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, elite U.S. troops are reported to be poised on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean.

The anti-terrorism alliance has also stepped up propaganda efforts. In addition to dropping leaflets with messages of friendship for the Afghan people, a U.S. plane is transmitting messages calling on Taleban fighters to defect.