- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Members of a militant Pakistani guerrilla group smuggled the bodies of eight colleagues from the Afghan front back into Pakistan, then confirmed yesterday that the eight had died in U.S. air strikes.
They were the first confirmed deaths of foreign forces joining the battered Taliban.
The guerrilla group succeeded in smuggling the bodies back after being refused entry at the main border crossing between Kabul and Peshawar.
A total of 22 Pakistani guerrillas were killed in the strikes earlier this week, according to members of the Harakat ul-Mujahideen, one of the most militant of more than a dozen Pakistani groups that send guerrillas to train in Afghan-istan and fight security forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
"They died at the front, fighting alongside the Taliban," said Gul Zamin, an activist in the banned group.
The deaths, while providing evidence that the U.S. strikes are reaching the Taliban and their allies on the ground, are likely to further inflame Pakistani militants, who already have been protesting the air strikes across the border in Afghanistan.
Colleagues first tried to bring the bodies through the border crossing at Torkham, on the road from Kabul to Peshawar, hoping to bury them in their homeland, according to reporters at the scene.
A Taliban official said the Pakistani border guards blocked the way, saying, "You wanted to fight with the Taliban, you can bury them in Afghanistan."
According to one account, the fighters died Monday night near Bagram, about 30 miles north of Kabul, where the Taliban faces off against the opposition Northern Alliance.
Another Harakat official told the Associated Press that they died while meeting in a house in Kabul, when a bomb came through the roof.
Harakat is designated by the United States as a terrorist group, and its assets were frozen following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, in which more than 5,000 people died.
Pakistan not only served as a rear base during the 1979-89 war against the Soviet Union, but Pakistanis joined the Afghan struggle in large numbers.
Of the 22 Pakistanis reported dead yesterday, nine were buried at a site near Bagram. Eight were smuggled into Pakistan and the whereabouts of the other five were unknown.
In northern Afghanistan yesterday, Mohammad Atta, a Northern Alliance leader, said his opposition forces, based south of Mazar-e-Sharif, had mounted an offensive toward the district of Keshendeh during the night.
He said U.S. air attacks on enemy lines had enabled his men to win control of four villages in fighting, which left between 70 and 80 Taliban troops dead and 150 captured.
The alliance, which claims to have teams of U.S. special forces among its ranks, hopes to take Mazar-e-Sharif to open supply routes leading to Kabul and into western Afganistan.
Near Kabul, the Taliban has concentrated an estimated 6,000 troops in hills about 30 miles north of the city. At a front-line post at the Rabat district, alliance deputy brigade commander Haji Bari claimed the opposition had brought up thousands of troops and weapons to the strategic Panjshir Valley in anticipation of any march on Kabul.
"We're waiting for the order," he said against a background of crackling artillery and machine-gun fire.
For the moment, however, alliance fighters were pulling back their positions to put their troops at a safe distance from U.S. bombs hitting Taliban forces, he said.
In Islamabad, U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said yesterday that more than 70 percent of the population of the main cities of Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar had fled to escape the U.S. bombing.
The Taliban claims that more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the bombardments, but Washington dismissed such claims as lies, acknowledging however that some bombs had gone astray.
The United Nations said yesterday that U.S. cluster bombs had hit a mosque in a military camp, a military hospital and a civilian village during attacks on the western Afghan city of Herat Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan their only foreign envoy returned to Afghanistan yesterday for consultations.
Asked in an interview where he was going, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef would say only that he was not going to the Taliban power base of Kandahar.
"I want to hold talks with the authorities on some issues which cannot be discussed on the telephone," the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted Mr. Zaeef as saying before he crossed the border at Torkham. It was suggested that he could not talk by telephone for fear of giving away the locations of Taliban leaders.
In a related development, Pakistani officials detained a pro-Taliban scientist who played a key role in helping Pakistan become a nuclear power. The government said Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood had been placed in protective custody.
Officials at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission said Mr. Mahmood had been a project director for the nation's nuclear program.
Abdul Majid, who was also detained, worked with Mr. Mahmood for years at the Atomic Energy Commission. Mr. Mahmood's links with Islamic groups and his pro-Taliban sentiments had drawn scrutiny from Pakistani security agencies in recent months, sources at the energy commission said.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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