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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Taleban defiant on Bin Laden
Afghan women and children cross into Pakistan on 18 October
The flood of refugees into Pakistan continues
The Taleban have again insisted that they will not hand over Osama Bin Laden - identified by the US as the prime suspect behind the attacks in New York and Washington last month.

The Taleban ambassador, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said on his return to Islamabad after talks with the Taleban leadership in Kandahar, that they remained strong, and the American bombing had not destroyed their military capabilities.


On the issue of Osama we have no change. Osama is an Islamic issue and a faith issue and we are not going to change our faith for anyone

Ambassador Zaeef
He said they might be talking to Pakistani officials in the coming days, but he did not comment on an earlier statement that he had brought a proposal with him to try to end the US-led air strikes on Afghanistan.

Washington, which has rejected all previous overtures or offers of negotiation from the Taleban, has confirmed that a small number of US special forces are operating on the ground in southern Afghanistan.

Ambassador Zaeef told a news conference in Islamabad: "On the issue of Osama we have no change. Osama is an Islamic issue and a faith issue and we are not going to change our faith for anyone."

He also denied any links between the Taleban and the anthrax attacks in the US.

Air strikes on the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the city of Kandahar have continued during daylight hours on the Muslim day of prayer - in contrast to last Friday, when the United States said it was making no planned raids on Afghanistan.

Click here for a map of Afghanistan's battle lines

US planes flying over Afghanistan have been broadcasting messages in local dialects warning people to stay off bridges and roads.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing on Thursday evening that intelligence reports suggested that air raids in recent days had inflicted more damage than earlier attacks, leaving Bin Laden's forces vulnerable.

"We have seen some movement of what we believe to be the al-Qaeda forces - and they have been specifically targeted while they were moving," Mr Rumsfeld said.

Video footage of US special forces in training
US special forces seen here in training for possible action
At least six civilians - including five members of one family - were killed in the capital Kabul during bombing on Thursday.

A senior Taleban spokesman, Abdul Hai Mutmaen, said on Thursday that between 600 and 900 people had been killed or were missing as a result of 12 days of US-led strikes on Afghanistan. The US admits some bombs have gone astray but says the Taleban's figure is far too high.

Aid agencies' appeal

For the first time, Mr Rumsfeld has spoken of helping to arm the Northern Alliance.

"They're going to have some help in food, they're going to have some help in ammunition, they're going to have some help in air support and assistance," he said.

A group of six international aid agencies has called for a pause in the air strikes to allow food supplies to be delivered before Afghanistan's severe winter sets in.

But the US denied on Thursday that its bombing was hampering the aid delivery, accusing the Taleban of disrupting its delivery.




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Click here for a detailed map of the strikes so far

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben Brown
"There was no pause in American air strikes"
The BBC's David Shukman
"The risk of casualties are high"
Defence analyst Paul Beaver
"They have probably landed quite a substantial force"
See also:

01 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: US special forces
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden 'aide' killed in blast
19 Sep 01 | UK
The SAS: Primed for action
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
The Taleban military machine
18 Oct 01 | Americas
Life sentences for embassy bombers
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