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US Bombs Taleban Positions Outside Kabul - 2001-10-22

U.S. planes bombed Taleban frontline positions outside Kabul and a key northern town Monday. Meanwhile, Taleban officials claim a bomb leveled a hospital in the western city of Herat.

For a second straight day, U.S. planes have focused on targets along the Taleban frontlines in northern Afghanistan.

The recent raids mark the first decisive bombing of Taleban frontline positions, a move that could substantially help the opposition Northern Alliance.

In Islamabad, the Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, says more than 100 patients and staff were killed Monday when a hospital was hit in Herat.

"It is now clear that American planes are now targeting the Afghan people," he says. "The goal is to punish the Afghan nation for having chosen an Islamic system."

He said 1,000 people have been killed since bombing began more than two weeks ago.

The Taleban claims have not been independently confirmed. And U.S. authorities, who say they have gone to great pains to avoid hitting civilians, have accused the Taleban of inflating the death toll.

Ambassador Zaeef echoed the defiant tone of a statement released Monday by Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, predicting victory for the Taleban.

"We are telling the Bush administration that you will never be able to break the will and determination of the Afghans," he says.

Earlier, Taleban officials said they have evidence that their forces shot down a U.S. helicopter. They have displayed what they say are parts of a U.S. aircraft found scattered in a mountainous region near Kandahar, an area where elite U.S. forces carried out a hit-and-run attack two days ago.

U.S. officials have denied those claims and say all aircraft involved in the raid returned safely to base. The Pentagon has acknowledged a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter on standby for search and rescue crashed in neighboring Pakistan. But they say it was an accident, and that the Taleban had no role in bringing it down.