- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan American bombers misfired yesterday, hitting civilian homes in the Afghan cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad and sending a new wave of internal refugees fleeing to the countryside, relief agencies said.
The strikes ended a 24-hour pause Friday in the bombing campaign to respect Muslim day of prayer.
The Taliban claimed hundreds of civilians had been killed, and in Washington, the Pentagon admitted a 2,000-pound bomb had gone astray in a Kabul neighborhood. It acknowledged claims by the Taliban of four dead and eight injured.
Separately, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), an independent news agency based in Pakistan, reported that residential neighborhoods in Kandahar and Jalalabad were hit. It said the casualties could not be determined.
But even before thunderous explosions yesterday shattered the calm of the previous day, Afghans had begun to flee homes in cities for rural areas, many for the third time since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "Now the focus is on targets closer to cities," said Mario Musa, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Islamabad.
Basing his assessment on daily conversations with Afghan Red Cross workers inside Afghanistan, he said people had been leaving cities in large numbers for the past 48 hours, presumably intending to return to the cities to work when they felt it was safe.
The same pattern, he said, occurred following the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oct. 7 beginning of the U.S.-led bombing campaign.
"People were constantly moving outside of cities to find sanctuaries for their families in the country," he said. "Then they would come back to work, shops would open. People have to work. They have families to feed."
The BBC broadcast television footage of destroyed mud homes in a neighborhood near the airport in Kabul, a rare look inside the country permitted by the Taliban, which has banned television for its own people in accordance with its strict interpretation of Islam.
The Taliban claims more than 300 civilians have died since the United States began bombing a week ago today, though Western officials have warned that the Afghan rulers are prone to exaggerate casualties.
Nevertheless, the confirmation yesterday of civilian casualties underscored the dilemma for Washington as it pursues Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The United States has limited its bombings to carefully chosen military targets and accompanied the strikes with air drops of food away from targeted areas to alleviate the unending misery of the Afghan people from years of drought and more than two decades of war.
For the first time yesterday, U.S. bombs destroyed a Taliban military headquarters, United Press International quoted AIP as saying. "Several bombs hit the Taliban's No. 1 Army Corps headquarters" near Jalalabad, the agency said.
But with a limited number of military targets as the campaign enters its second week, the risks of civilian casualties appeared to be rising and the Taliban appeared ready for a long propaganda campaign against Washington.
It prepared to let Western reporters into areas of Afghanistan it controls, over objections from its former ally Pakistan, a reversal of its decision to expel all foreign reporters a month ago.
Taliban authorities said they were searching for bodies in the remote mountain village of Khorum, east of Jalalabad near the Pakistan border. It claims more than 150 people died there.
"We once again want to say that [the U.S.] intention is a war against Muslims and Afghans," Taliban Information Minister Mullah Qudratullah Jamal told the Reuters news agency.
On Thursday, President Bush said the first phase of the air campaign had ended and offered the Taliban what he described as a second chance to turn over bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
But Mullah Jamal said bid Laden "is not the issue, and people have realized this by the crimes [the Americans] are committing. Our stance regarding the situation is as before. Our jihad (holy war) will continue until the last breath for the defense of our homeland and Islam."
According to reports from Kabul, Kandahar and the western city of Heart, more bombs fell late last night.
In Pakistan, demonstrations continued against the U.S.-led air strikes, albeit smaller and without the violence that accompanied some protests on Friday.

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