Wednesday, Otober 10
New U.S. Attacks on Kandahar
October 10, 2001
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - With the United States claiming supremacy over Afghan airspace, warplanes pounded areas around the Taliban's home base of Kandahar early Wednesday for the third time in 24 hours.
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia, which had claimed to be restricting terror suspect Osama bin Laden's communications ability, told the British Broadcasting Corp. there are now ``no restrictions'' on him. The Taliban also reported that their supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had survived the latest round of American airstrikes unscathed.
As the U.S.-led air assault against Afghanistan's rulers moved into a fourth day, bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network praised the ``good deed'' of hijackers who commandeered planes for the fiery air attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
``The Americans must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop, God willing, and there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life,'' Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a spokesman for Al-Qaida, said in a statement broadcast on Qatar's Al-Jazeera television.
The Taliban, which have claimed up until now to be curtailing bin Laden's communications with the outside world, say those - and any other restrictions on him - have ended.
Abdul Hai Muttmain, Mullah Omar's spokesman, told the BBC's Pashtu-language service that the move was justified by the U.S.-led air assault against Afghanistan.
``Now that America has begun its war against Muslims, the situation is totally changed, and there are no restrictions on Osama,'' Muttmain said. U.S. intelligence officials have said bin Laden has maintained a sophisticated array of communications equipment all along.
The United States has coupled the air assaults with a humanitarian effort, dropping packets of food aid into Afghanistan from planes. The Taliban defiantly announced Wednesday that Afghans were burning the packets rather than eating the food.
Abdul Hanan Himat, a spokesman for the Taliban information ministry, said ``the Americans are killing us and attacking us, and we don't need this food.''
Rebels trying to topple the Taliban, meanwhile, claimed they were being bolstered by the American-led air campaign.
Waisaddin Salik, a spokesman for the northern opposition alliance contacted by telephone from Pakistan, said U.S. jets had bombed Taliban positions in the district of Shakardara late Tuesday.
The district, 15 miles north of Kabul, is along the battle line where the alliance has been facing off against Taliban troops. It was the first reported bombing of such a front-line position by U.S. forces.
The Taliban, though, said they had repelled a rebel assault in northern Gur province. Himat said 35 opposition fighters were killed.
The claims could not be independently verified.
In Washington, defense officials said Tuesday that the U.S.-led assault on Afghanistan had established supremacy in Taliban airspace, disabling all but one of their air bases, knocking out air defenses, and hitting some ground troops and several suspected terrorist training camps.
The next phase of the U.S. strikes could include raids by small groups of Army Special Forces soldiers ferried in by low-flying helicopters to rout out terrorist or Taliban leaders, military analysts say. The forces would likely use Black Hawk helicopters, which can carry up to 14 commandos and their gear and have equipment allowing them to fly low and fast at night or in bad weather.
In the airstrikes early Wednesday, jets dropped three bombs near the Kandahar airport, which has been the target of multiple assaults since the raids began late Sunday. The area is home to key Taliban air defense systems, housing units that lodge at least 300 bin Laden followers, and the compound housing the home and offices of the Taliban's supreme leader.
A spokesman for Mullah Omar, Abdul Ahad Jahangeerwa, told the private Afghan Islamic Press that the Taliban leader was ``well and has not suffered any bodily harm.'' Jahangeerwa had no detail on any damage or injuries from Wednesday morning's attacks, though he confirmed that the airport and the surrounding area were targeted.
The capital, Kabul, which was hit on the first two nights of attacks, was quiet Wednesday. The previous night, a deafening new barrage of anti-aircraft opened up, but there were no strikes in the city or its immediate surroundings.
After nightfall Tuesday, American jets pounded areas around Kandahar and the airport outside the remote northwestern city of Herat, near the Iranian border. The raids followed unsuccessful cruise missile strikes in the area the night before, Afghan officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Taliban officials have claimed that dozens have died in the U.S.-led raids. The only independently confirmed casualties are four guards for a mine-clearing agency under contract to the United Nations. They were killed in Monday night's strikes, which apparently were targeting a nearby radio transmission tower and munitions dumps.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kathy Gannon contributed to this dispatch from Islamabad, Pakistan.
A US cruise missile hit a residential area in the Afghan capital of Kabul this morning, killing civilians and destroying houses, the Taliban claimed this morning.
No independent confirmation of the casualties was available. After announcing yesterday that they had achieved air supremacy in Afganistan, US planes struck again this morning at Kabul and at the airport in the Taliban stonghold of Kandahar.
US defence officials said yesterday that they had disabled all but one of the Taliban's airbases and knocked out air defences. That announcement could clear the way for low-flying missions that would target specific Taliban leaders or members of Osama bin Laden's al-Quaida terrorist network.
This morning the Taliban said that in response to the US bombing raids, they had lifted all restrictions on Bin Laden and were urging him to wage a holy war on the US.
A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Hai Mutmaen, told the BBC's Pashtu service: "Jihad is an obligation on all Muslims of the world. We want this, Bin Laden wants this and America will face the unpleasant consequences of their attacks."
The Taliban also announced today that Afghans were burning the packets of food dropped from American planes.
Abdul Hanan Himat, a spokesman for the Taliban information ministry, said that because "the Americans are killing us and attacking us, and we don't need this food".
Blair in Gulf
Meanwhile the prime minister, Tony Blair, arrived in the Gulf state of Oman today to meet British soldiers on exercise there and to try to win over sceptical Arab opinion to the war on terrorism.
Mr Blair, who has given military support to the US strikes on Afghanistan, was due to address soldiers taking part in Britain's biggest troop deployment since the 1991 Gulf war.
He was also expected to hold talks with Oman's Sultan Qaboos on the second leg of a diplomatic tour aimed at shoring up Arab support for the military action against the Taliban and Bin Laden's al Qaida organisation.
Students danced around a burning effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush and shouted slogans as several hundred earlier tried to breach the parliament gates under the watchful eyes of scores of riot police stationed just inside the compound.
Unhappy at Jakarta's tacit acceptance of U.S.-led strikes against Afghanistan, the students marched to parliament to urge MPs to take a harsh stance over the military action. A small group were later allowed inside to meet legislators.
"America-America the terrorist!" students shouted.
"America said they will only attack the Taliban and Osama. That's a lie. America is there to destroy Islam," one student shouted from atop a pick-up truck parked near the gates.
Washington launched the strikes on Sunday after suicide hijack attacks on America last month that killed about 5,600 people. It says Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born militant sheltered by the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, masterminded those attacks.
STUDENTS BURN FLAGS
Before lunch, many of the same students burned American flags and an effigy of Bush near the U.N. office in central Jakarta, not far from the U.S. embassy which is surrounded by razor wire barricades and hundreds of police.
But analysts have noted that while the demonstrations in recent days have been noisy, they have been relatively small compared to some protests in volatile Indonesia in the past few years, partly easing fears in Jakarta of widespread violence.
The security forces have also shown they will not tolerate any violence, firing warning shots and tear gas at about 400 Muslim protesters outside the U.S. embassy on Tuesday when they shook razor barricades blocking the front of that compound.
Witnesses said police also hit several protesters with batons outside the U.S. embassy during a minor rally on Wednesday.
There were no protests reported in other Indonesian cities.
Reflecting the moderate views of most Indonesian Muslims, a poll of 3,000 people by local broadcaster MetroTV showed 80 percent believed the street protests were already excessive. Many, however, oppose the air strikes.
Indonesia has urged the United States and its allies to limit its military campaign against Afghanistan but stopped well short of openly criticising the strikes, a position that has angered radical Muslim groups.
About 90 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim.
CALL FOR CUT IN RELATIONS
The U.S. embassy was closed on Wednesday but the British embassy reopened.
The Islamic Youth Movement (GPI) and the Indonesian Muslim Student Action Front (KAMMI) said they would stage afternoon rallies at parliament. It was unclear if their members were among the students already outside the parliament.
"We want to push parliament to voice a firm stance because it looks like the government has reached its maximum ... (which is) not firm at all," GPI chairman Suaib Didu told Reuters.
KAMMI said they wanted legislators to lead the drive in cutting relations with the United States, a vital trade and investment partner for a country battered by four years of crisis and desperate for fresh inflows of foreign funds.
The English-language Jakarta Post urged the government to convey a clearer message on the strikes. "At this critical time the Indonesian nation was hoping to see firm and cohesive national leadership," the newspaper said in an editorial.
"The current perception is that both President Megawati (Sukarnoputri) and Vice-President Hamzah Haz are not sufficiently displaying a sense of urgency."
The usually reticent Megawati has said nothing publicly on the strikes on Afghanistan, nor the delicate position they have put the government in.
The rally, held in the Feyziyyeh religious seminary, was attended mostly by young Iranian and Afghan religious students chanting "Death to America" and slogans in support of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The peaceful rally lasted less than an hour and did not spill into the streets, witnesses said.
The rally in the conservative city was so far the only public protest of anti-U.S. sentiment since the air and missile attacks on Afghanistan started on Sunday.
Khamenei has condemned the attacks which he said were motivated by "imperialist" tendencies.
KABUL, Afghanistan (Oct. 10) - Reeling from round-the-clock U.S. air raids, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on Wednesday lifted all restrictions on the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, saying he was free to wage a holy war against the United States.
The U.S.-led missile and bomb strikes on Afghanistan had made it an obligation for all Muslims to wage jihad against America, Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutmaen told the BBC's Pashto language service.
As he spoke, U.S. warplanes were bombing the Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar, but Mutmaen said no harm had come to the hardline Islamic movement's leadership or bin Laden.
Details of damage or casualties from Tuesday night's raids against the Taliban, who have imposed a draconian set of rules on how men should look and dress and barred women from work, were not immediately available since a regular night curfew is in place.
Mutmaen said Saudi-born millionaire bin Laden -- who the Taliban had previously said was under strict supervision with communications cut and his activities curtailed -- was now free to operate as he wanted.
''With the start of the American attacks, these restrictions are no longer in place,'' Mutmaen said.
''Jihad is an obligation on all Muslims of the world. We want this, bin Laden wants this and America will face the unpleasant consequences.''
He was speaking after a third straight night of U.S.-led air raids on Taliban military targets and bases run by bin Laden and his al Qaeda group, which Washington says is a terrorist network.
Al Qaeda, which means ''base'' in Arabic, was the brainchild of the militant fugitive, who lives in Afghanistan as a guest of the Taliban.
A spokesman for bin Laden and the group -- blamed by the United States for the devastating September 11 suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington -- earlier also said it was every Muslim's duty to fight against the U.S.
''STORM OF PLANES WILL NOT STOP''
''Americans should know, the storm of the planes will not stop,'' al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Bu Ghaith said in a video statement broadcast by Qatar's Al Jazeera television early on Wednesday morning.
''American interests are spread everywhere in the world. Every Muslim should carry out his full role toward his nation and his religion. Terrorism against oppressors is a belief in our religion and our teachings.''
The Taliban have also vowed revenge, pledging over two million Afghan lives in a jihad against what they call U.S. terrorism.
''We are determined to offer two million more martyrs for independence and sovereignty if need be,'' Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's ambassador to Islamabad, told a news conference on Tuesday.
Mullah Zaeef accused the United States of wanting to install a puppet government in Kabul to help U.S. companies tap the vast oil and gas resources of Central Asia via impoverished Afghanistan.
He was referring to the opposition Northern Alliance, which claimed on Tuesday to have seized control of the only remaining north-south highway after persuading 40 Taliban commanders and their 1,200 fighters to switch sides.
''There wasn't any fighting, they basically came right over,'' said Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance which still holds Afghanistan's U.N. seat despite controlling less than 10 percent of the country.
If confirmed, the defections would deal a severe blow to the Taliban, who came to power in Kabul in 1996 and are now under attack from inside and out.
''It has put the Taliban in northern Afghanistan in a very difficult situation, the most difficult situation in all their years,'' Abdullah told Reuters.
The third night of President Bush's war on terrorism began shortly before the evening curfew took effect, with warplanes and cruise missiles roaring through the clear night sky over the mountainous country.
Zaeef said Tuesday's air strikes hit neither bin Laden nor the Taliban senior leadership in Kandahar, even though one missile hit a house formerly used by supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
''Thanks be to God, they are alive and in Afghanistan,'' he said.
One missile did hit the Kabul office of a U.N.-funded mine clearance group, a crucial project in one of the world's most heavily mined countries, and killed four men who worked there.
The strike prompted the United Nations -- which through the Security Council has sanctioned the U.S. attacks -- to urge Washington to take care to avoid civilian casualties.
In Washington, U.S. defense officials said the raids had so far achieved all objectives and military sources said the operation was now likely to move into its next phase -- possibly including ground forces.
That scenario is likely to appeal more to bin Laden, whose personal fortune and charisma have provided the Taliban with thousands of zealous foreign Muslim fighters -- known collectively as ''Arabs'' regardless of their origin -- and guaranteed their sanctuary.
After decades of war many Afghans are inured to conflict, but mainly infantry and artillery battles rather than the air blitz that the United States has unleashed.
Precise details of what damage the U.S.-led raids have caused so far are difficult to gather. The Taliban ordered all westerners out of the country weeks ago and are suspicious of television cameras.
Taliban authorities on Tuesday accused a second journalist caught in disguise after crossing from neighboring Pakistan of spying, saying his satellite telephone and tape recorders were espionage tools.
Michel Peyrard, 44, a reporter for the French weekly Paris Match, was wearing a traditional all-encompassing woman's burqa when arrested near the eastern city of Jalalabad.
British reporter Yvonne Ridley arrived in Pakistan on Monday following 10 days in a Kabul jail after being caught in similar disguise. She too had originally been accused of spying.
Reuters 00:38 10-10-01
BERLIN (Reuters) - Some 1,800 fighters from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime have deserted and joined the opposition Northern Alliance in the past 24 hours, a Northern Alliance representative said Wednesday.
``Since yesterday there have been almost 1,800 deserters,'' Abed Nadjib, an official at the Northern Alliance's embassy in Germany, told Reuters. He said the Taliban's military was estimated to have a strength of 15,000 to 25,000 men.
``They have come over with weapons, ammunition, everything,'' Nadjib said.
He said he had the information from the Northern Alliance government in northern Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is fighting the Taliban regime.
Nadjib said he did not think the Taliban regime would survive for long as U.S.-led bombing raids since Sunday had deprived them of air power.
He added that rather than commit major ground troops, it would make more sense for the United States to provide funding and equipment to Northern Alliance fighters to carry on the ground war against the Taliban.
The Taliban has given Osama bin Laden free rein to wage a holy war on the United States after a third successive night of U.S. air and missile raids on Taliban targets.
Washington accuses bin Laden of having masterminded the September 11 suicide hijack attacks on the United States.