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Taleban: More than 400 People Killed in Air Strikes - 2001-10-18


Taleban authorities say more than 400 people been killed in U.S. led air strikes against terrorist and military related targets in Afghanistan. The claim comes as Taleban authorities are also warning of a worsening humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan. Afghan refugees are finding their way to Pakistan.

In a statement sent by fax to news agencies, the Taleban Ambassador to Islamabad Abdul Salaam Zaeef says 400 people have been killed so far in the U.S. led strikes, which he says have been targeted against civilians.

The Ambassador's claims cannot be independently confirmed. U.S. military officials say some civilians have been accidentally killed in the strikes -or by secondary explosions - but the strikes are targeted at military and terrorist related sites.

Ambassador Zaeef also says Afghans are dying because of shortages of food and medicine. His comments were echoed by the Taleban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, who quashed rumors he had defected from the Taleban by giving an interview to the Arabic-language TV news channel Al-Jazeera - saying international aid agencies should step up their aid deliveries through their Afghan employees in the country.

The French aid group "Doctors Without Borders" says it is closing its operations in two Afghan cities, after armed gangs looted medicine, equipment and vehicles earlier this week. U.N. officials say Taleban militia groups have been involved in similar incidents. On Thursday Taleban soldiers withdrew from a World Food Program warehouse in Kabul they had occupied this week.

In Pakistan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan says Afghan refugees are crossing the border even though it is officially closed. "You are aware the established entry points for the Afghan refugees are closed. They are not entering there but there are many who are trickling from the various mountain trials and some estimates say about 50,000 of them have crossed into Pakistan since the 11 of September," he says.

U.N. officials say the number of Afghans arriving in Pakistan's Baluchistan province has climbed quite sharply, with about 8,000 believed to have crossed in the Chaman border area in the last few days.

The U.N. says reports from the border area indicate the general physical condition of the new arrivals is visibly deteriorating.

Some non-governmental relief agencies have called for a temporary halt to the air and missile strikes - to allow them to move large amounts of relief supplies into Afghanistan - to avert what they say could be a serious humanitarian crisis.

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