- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

JABAL SARAJ, Afghanistan Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has called on Pakistani Muslims to defend Islam against an ongoing Christian crusade, the Al Jazeera satellite television station reports.

The call, which came in the form of a letter to Qatar's Arabic news network, claimed that "Muslims in Afghanistan are being subjected to killing and the Pakistani government is standing beneath the Christian banner."

The U.S. bombing of neighboring Afghanistan had angered many Muslims in Pakistan, which dropped support for the Taliban under U.S. pressure after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"There is no need to comment on such a report," a Pakistani government spokesman said of the Al Jazeera bulletin.

Afghanistan's opposition alliance will be able to break the Taliban's front lines "within a few days" if the United States maintains its intense bombardments there, a senior alliance official said yesterday.

"Our forces will reach their highest level of preparation in a few days' time," said Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign minister of the opposition's government in exile. "Our forces are ready to break the front lines."

For the past 11 days, U.S. air attacks have shifted away from high-profile urban targets in favor of Taliban front-line positions north of the capital, Kabul, and near the northern cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Taloqan.

Opposition leaders have been calling on the United States to increase the frequency and intensity of the front-line assaults. Some of the heaviest bombardment of Taliban front lines north of Kabul took place Wednesday. U.S. fighter jets were heard roaring over the Shomali plain where the front lines lie yesterday as well.

Speaking to reporters in the opposition-held town of Jabal Saraj, Mr. Abdullah praised Wednesday's air raids, which for the first time included the use of B-52 bombers, as "very effective."

He said 15 Taliban tanks were destroyed in five days of bombing along the front lines. He said U.S. jets on Wednesday hit a Taliban air base and ammunitions depot in the northern city of Kunduz, forcing the hard-line Islamic militia to empty the depot and take its contents to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Alliance officials say they are preparing for an attack on Mazar-e-Sharif. Capturing the city would enable the Northern Alliance to cut Taliban supply lines to western Afghanistan and open routes to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the north.

Overnight, U.S. jets struck a Taliban fuel and ammunition dump near opposition-controlled Bagram air base on the Kabul front, said opposition spokesman Waisuddin Salik. Three fuel tanks and two trucks were destroyed, he said.

Despite heavy bombings of front-line Taliban positions, however, there was no sign yesterday that the opposition Northern Alliance was moving forward either around Kabul or in the other major front at Mazar-e-Sharif.

The Taliban, meanwhile, reported its forces had pushed back opposition attacks on its positions in the Dar-e-Suf district southeast of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The Taliban said the U.S. raids in the southwest destroyed a hydroelectric power plant at Kajaki Dam in Helmand province. All power installations at the 33-megawatt Kajaki plant had been destroyed, although the dam itself had not been affected.

In Islamabad, the Taliban ambassador said his government had arrested several U.S. citizens, but Washington denied any Americans were detained.

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