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US Warning: Taliban May Try to Poison Food - 2001-10-25

The U.S. Defense Department is warning that Afghanistan's ruling Taleban may try to poison food and blame the United States.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said the Pentagon has received indications of a possible plot by the Taleban to poison food in Afghanistan. "We are confident in the information we have that they may try to poison one or more types of food sources and blame the Americans," he stressed. "We are releasing this information preemptively so that they will know that if the food comes from Americans, it will not be tainted."

Admiral Stufflebeem did not offer any details on what the information was and from where it originated. But he indignantly denied that the United States would even consider doing anything like poisoning food. "The report that we would do that is categorically false," he said. "We would never poison any foodstuffs. We are humane people. We want to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. It's just beyond our comprehension that we would consider poisoning a food source."

Since U.S. attacks against the Taleban began more than three weeks ago, the United States has also airdropped more than 700,000 packages of food to the Afghans. Thousands of people have fled from the cities into the harsh countryside on the eve of the traditionally brutal Afghan winter. Some foreign relief agencies have also been able to get food in.

But reports say Taleban militia have confiscated some of the food. Admiral Stufflebeem said Afghans must be wary of food distributed from Taleban sources.

Admiral Stufflebeem also said he is surprised at how doggedly the Taleban have clung to power in the face of the attacks launched against them by the United States. He acknowledged them to be "tough warriors," as he put it, and that it might take some time to flush them out.

U.S. officials have not ruled out continuing the bombing campaign during Ramadan, the month of fasting marked by devout Muslims. Ramadan begins in mid-November in Afghanistan.