- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan Afghanistan's capital shook with explosions and the roar of fighter jets yesterday as U.S. and British forces launched air and cruise missile attacks against strategic Taliban targets across the country.
U.S. and British forces concentrated at least three waves of strikes on the airfields, communications and radar facilities of the ruling Islamic militia in most major cities, including the Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar.
Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, told the Associated Press in Islamabad this morning that there were casualties from the attacks.
"Civilians died. It was a very huge attack," said Mr. Zaeef, who did not say where he got his information. U.S. officials said last night that it was too early to assess the effectiveness of the strikes.
The Northern Alliance, the umbrella group for opposition Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, staged its own assault from a military air base the Alliance controls about 25 miles north of Kabul. The rebel troops fired multiple-rocket launchers at Taliban forces, who returned fire using Soviet-made BM-21 rockets.
Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said he believed the Taliban could survive only a few days against such a combination of strikes.
But Afghanistan-based Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, the primary target of the U.S.-British assaults, apparently survived the first wave of bombings.
In videotaped remarks played yesterday on Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite television network, bin Laden taunted President Bush as an "infidel" and said America would not live in peace until Palestinians can do the same.
"Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion," bin Laden said, speaking from a rocky crag in an undisclosed location. "The wind of faith is blowing and the wind of change is blowing to remove evil from the Peninsula of Mohammed" a coded reference to bin Laden's long-standing campaign to drive U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia.
"I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart" the Middle East, bin Laden warned.
On the ground in Afghanistan, several airport command centers were reportedly taken out, but Taliban officials who condemned "these horrendous terrorist attacks" insisted there was "no significant damage."
They also said that both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had survived, although the mullah's high-walled compound near Kandahar suffered a direct hit from the allied barrage.
"We are keeping close contact with authorities in Kabul and Kandahar and they say they are undeterred by these attacks. Our Taliban forces are ready for retaliation," said Maulvi Najeebullah, the Taliban consul in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Mr. Zaeef said yesterday the Taliban would not bow to U.S. demands to hand over bin Laden. Just hours before the first missiles hit, the Taliban made a final offer to try bin Laden itself under Islam-based shariah law, an offer rejected by the United States.
Loud explosions were heard across Kabul last night and electricity supplies were cut after the first attack began around 9 p.m. local time, residents said.
Jets could be heard flying high over the city as the night sky lit up with explosions and strings of tracer bullets from Taliban anti-aircraft guns placed around the capital.
Four hours later, another large explosion was heard near Kabul's airport, and the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency reported two subsequent waves of "very heavy" bombing.
The attacks began just before the imposition of the regular nighttime curfew in Kabul, and residents said there was no panic among civilians.
Taliban troops were seen moving around the city in trucks, but as the curfew hour arrived, most residents returned indoors after coming out to watch the attack.
Initial reports indicated that Kabul and Kandahar had been the main targets, but Afghan opposition sources confirmed that Taliban facilities had been hit.
They said airports and other military sites had been targeted in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the western city of Farah and the northern cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz.
Explosions were seen at the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif as "dozens" of U.S. helicopters and jets flew overhead, a spokesman told reporters.
Pakistan, the main backer of the Taliban before the devastation in New York and Washington, supported the allied strikes but voiced concern for the innocent civilians of Afghanistan, millions of whom are on the brink of famine due to civil war and drought.

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