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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Fear and defiance inside Afghanistan
Wreckage in a village near Kabul
The Taleban say a girl was killed when this village was bombed
The Taleban have invited a group of foreign journalists into Afghanistan for the first time since the US-led airstrikes began last Sunday.


We pray to God that the United States should meet a fate similar to that we are suffering

Kabul preacher

The move could well allow independent verification, for the first time, of the Taleban's claim that the raids have killed more than 300 Afghan citizens.

"Cruel America has killed scores of our people. God must destroy those who are committing atrocities against us," the preacher at Kabul's main mosque told Friday worshippers.

But getting accurate information about what toll the bombing raids are taking on ordinary Afghans is proving a difficult task.

Giving money to beggars in Kabul
After Friday prayers in Kabul - women beg for money

The foreign journalists are due to enter Afghanistan on Saturday, travelling through the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The Taleban have invited them to the eastern city of Jalalabad to see evidence of civilian casualties.

Earlier on Friday, a Kabul man who has escaped into Pakistan told the BBC's Persian service that he had seen a mosque in Jalalabad that had been destroyed.

"I saw it with my own eyes. It had been hit at nine o'clock at night. And I saw for myself that many people had been killed."

'Still digging'

The heaviest casualties, the Taleban say, have been in a village near Jalalabad, where they say more than 160 people died in a raid on Wednesday night.

"We are still digging bodies out of the rubble," a local official told the Associated Press news agency.

Sher Sha Hamdard, of the Taleban news agency, said he had taken a crew from the pan-Arab al-Jazeera television station based in Kabul to the scene.

He told the AFP news agency the stench of corpses and rotting livestock was almost unbearable.

Night time fears

It is clear that the raids have spread fear and panic, particularly at night time, when the raids have been heaviest.


We were worried in case the bombs fell on the houses, we could not sleep until this morning

Kabul resident

One Kabul resident told the BBC's Pashto service what happened on the first night of the raids.

"Last night I was at home, eating my dinner. Suddenly the planes came and started bombing which continued. We panicked as the electricity was lost.

"We were worried in case the bombs fell on the houses. The plane came five times. We could not sleep until this morning."

Afghan journalists working for the main international news agencies describe how the night sky above cities like Kabul is repeatedly lit up by intense bombardments.

"There are explosions and flashes every 10 seconds or so," a Kabul resident told Reuters news agency, describing an attack on a Taleban munitions dump near Kabul early on in the raids.

Shivering child

And that is affecting Kabul children. Reuters spoke to the mother of five-year-old Sadeq, traumatised in a hospital in the capital.

Afghan radio station after attack
The US insists the targets are all military
"When the strike starts he shivers... and weeps," Sadeq's mother said.

And hospital power cuts do not help.

"He wants to go home and we prefer him to go, as the horror of planes flying over and the explosions with the darkness when the power is cut may bring back his shock," the mother said.

Launch new window : Detailed map
Click here for a detailed map of the strikes so far

Earlier this week the Taleban said four Afghans working for the United Nations de-mining programme in Kabul had been killed in a bombing raid. That was subsequently confirmed by the UN.

During the day, residents of Kabul try to carry on as normal, with markets operating in spite of the severe food shortages that are threatening to cause famine.

The Afghan man who told the BBC about the destroyed mosque in Jalalabad, said civilian casualties in Kabul were few.

"The government offices, local offices, the ministries - they're all open. And people come and go, as normal.

"There's electricity too. But when the bombing begins, and the planes appear, they switch the electricity supplies off."

Jubilation

In areas of Afghanistan controlled by the opposition Northern Alliance, the raids have been greeted with a mixture of emotion.

The BBC's Catherine Davis, in the Shomali Plains just north of Kabul, says there is a mixture of jubilation and concern as the rebels and their supporters watch the night time explosions over Kabul.

On the one hand, they believe they can now defeat the Taleban with America's help.

But many of them have lived in Kabul or have relatives there and fear for what is happening in the city.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams
"American operations continue around the clock"
See also:

10 Oct 01 | South Asia
Summary of targets so far
09 Oct 01 | South Asia
Fears of Afghan food crisis
09 Oct 01 | Americas
Bush's military countdown
11 Oct 01 | Americas
New scare diverts US flight
11 Oct 01 | Americas
Analysis: Washington's next phase
11 Oct 01 | South Asia
Mapping Afghanistan's political future
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