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Warplanes Pound Taleban Front Lines - 2001-10-31


U.S. warplanes pounded the Taleban's frontlines near the capital and the key northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, where opposition forces say they are poised to launch a major offensive. The Taleban envoy to Pakistan says that there have been more civilian casualties.

Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef says U.S. planes are purposely hitting civilian targets. The ambassador's spokesman, Sohail Shaheen. "The aim is to create a refugee influx and to coerce people to rise against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," he said. "So far 1,500 innocent men, women, and children have fallen victim to this tactic."

The Taleban claims have not been confirmed. U.S. officials say they are not targeting civilians, though they do admit some bombs have gone astray, causing what they call limited casualties. Witnesses in the southern Taleban stronghold, Kandahar, say a U.S. bomb hit a clinic. Western journalists in the city report seeing extensive damage to the building as well as patients the Taleban says were injured in the attack.

U.S. warplanes also stepped up attacks on Taleban frontlines in the north of the country, striking targets near the capital and outside the key northern city, Mazar-e-Sharif.

Pentagon officials recently confirmed American troops are stationed in northern Afhanistan to help coordinate attacks with the opposition Northern Alliance, which says it is gearing up for a major assault.

But Pakistan, which until recently supported the Taleban in its fight against the northern forces, urged restraint. Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aziz Khan. "It would not be advisable for any single faction or group to takeover control of Kabul," he said. "The future dispensation of Afghanistan should be freely chosen by the people of Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, U.N. officials say the special envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, will not have time to meet with the Taleban ambassador during his current trip to Islamabad. Mr. Brahimi has been meeting with Pakistani officials and Afghan exiles in a bid to find a political solution to the crisis.

The Taleban's Ambassador Zaeef had earlier requested a meeting. But when asked about it, the ambassador said he no longer wants to talk with him, calling Mr. Brahimi an agent of America.

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