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Four UN Workers Dead in Afghan Attacks - 2001-10-09

The United Nations says four Afghan employees of a U.N.-affiliated mine clearing organization were killed in air strikes that took place late Monday and early Tuesday in Afghanistan.

U.N. officials confirm four Afghans who were guarding the offices of the Afghan Technical Consultancy, a non-governmental group involved in mine clearing operations, were killed late Monday when a missile struck their building on the outskirts of Kabul.

A U.N. spokeswoman in Islamabad appealed for the United States and Britain to distinguish between civilians and combatants in the strikes against terrorist targets. U.S. and British officials say they are only targeting strategic military or terrorist related sites. The mine clearing office was near a radio transmission tower.

Briefing reporters at the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, Aziz Khan, a senior official responsible for Afghan affairs, said his government hoped the strikes would remain focused on terrorist targets. "Unfortunately no technology can be perfect," he said. "In this situation of hostilities there are always possibilities of collateral damage which should be avoided as much as possible. It is regrettable if such things take place. We hope that the attacks will be focused on the terrorists and their camps."

[Meanwhile in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world organization has suffered a "hard blow" with the deaths of the four humanitarian workers in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General said the incident in Afghanistan illustrates that "we need to do all we can" to protect innocent civilians there.]

U.S. warplanes have conducted their first daylight strikes against targets in Kandahar.

The Taleban Ambassador to Islamabad, Abdul Salaam Zaeef denounced the United States for launching air strikes without first negotiating with the Taleban for the surrender of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden. "We asked Americans to produce solid proofs of allegations," he said. "But America is sending warplanes, bombs and cruise missiles in place of evidence to attack our country and to replace the Islamic system. This is open terrorist actions."

The Taleban Ambassador said he spoke with Taleban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, and that he is safe. He said media reports that several Taleban commanders have tried to defect to Pakistan are "propaganda."