U.S. air strikes resumed Wednesday against targets in and around the Afghan capital, Kabul, and against Taleban front-line positions north of the city. The strikes are taking place as relief workers are beginning to screen Afghan refugees trying to enter Pakistan.
Witnesses say successive waves of air strikes are being carried out against Taleban positions in the Kabul area, with many strikes just to the north of the city, near Taleban frontlines.
U.N. and U.S. officials report Taleban troops moving into residential areas of Kabul, raising the possibility of higher civilian casualties. The Afghan Islamic Press reports Wednesday U.S. strikes killed 52 civilians in a village near the southern city, Kandahar. There is no independent confirmation of the report.
Taleban authorities say more than 1,000 civilians have been killed, so far, since air strikes against terrorist and military-related targets began, 18 days ago. U.S. officials dispute the figure, saying collateral damage has been limited.
Foreign aid workers say they have begun screening thousands of Afghan refugees who have been approved to enter a temporary refugee camp near Chaman, Pakistan. An estimated 15,000 Afghan refugees are believed to be waiting at the border.
In a separate development, Pakistani and Taleban authorities have reached agreement to house many of the refugees in camps inside Afghanistan run by the Taleban. There have clashes at the border, in recent days, between refugees and Pakistani border guards. Pakistani officials say they will admit women and children and those who are injured but cannot open the border to all refugees. There are an estimated two million Afghans living in Pakistan.
U.N. officials have criticized the agreement, saying Taleban authorities cannot help the large number of refugees adequately.
Meanwhile, as the air strikes continue inside Afghanistan, Afghan exile leaders began two days of meetings in Peshawar, Pakistan, to discuss a post-Taleban government. Many exiles say they are willing to unite under the banner of the exiled king Zahir Shah.