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Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
US attacks Taleban front line
Khair Khana bomb site
Several civilians were reported killed in Kabul
US aircraft have bombed Taleban front-line positions north of the Afghan capital Kabul, in the first verified strike of its kind.


It would be in our interest and the interest of the coalition to see this matter resolved before winter strikes and it makes our operations that much more difficult

Colin Powell
A local opposition commander said the planes had targeted Taleban positions around the Bagram airfield, and there were reports of attacks near Darra-e Sof - an opposition-held enclave outside the strategic northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

The strikes went ahead despite concern voiced by some members of the anti-terror coalition about the possible entry into Kabul of the opposition Northern Alliance.

Click here to see a map of the latest strikes

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Fox TV that it would be in the best interest of the US and its allies to "resolve" the military conflict in Afghanistan before winter.

Al-Qaeda 'crippled'

The head of the US military, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers, said his forces had crippled the al-Qaeda network of Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

He told the US television channel ABC that tanks, artillery, vehicle support facilities and troop concentrations had been hit.


This pilot was like he was blind, there are no military bases here - only innocent people

Local resident
Meanwhile, there were reports that a number of people had been killed in Afghanistan in overnight bombing raids by US planes.

Two Western news agencies with reporters on the ground said there had been civilian casualties as a result of the bombing of residential areas.

The bombing came on a 15th night of US air strikes, a day after elite troops clashed with Taleban fighters on the ground for the first time since the campaign began.

Earlier, the Washington Post revealed that President Bush has authorised the CIA to use lethal force to eliminate Bin Laden and key members of al-Qaeda.

Bombed house in Khair Khana
The two-storey Kabul house was demolished
The CIA has been handed an extra $1bn to fund covert operations and received an unprecedented order to work more closely with elite commando units.

American intelligence has detected "new and important" weaknesses in Bin Laden's organisation which will it will attack in lethal, secret operations, the paper quoted US sources as saying.

However a Taleban official released a statement on Sunday saying that Bin Laden and his companions were "living in complete safety".

In other developments:

  • General Myers says US forces will try to capture Bin Laden alive, but warns "bullets will fly" if he is in a defensive situation
  • It is confirmed that the 10-year old son of Taleban leader Mullah Omar has died in a hospital in the southern city of Kandahar after being injured in one of the first nights of US bombing.
  • Osama Bin Laden
    The Taleban say they will never give up Osama Bin Laden
    The Taleban say they have executed five men in the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif for spying for the US
  • Leaders at the Asia-Pacific summit in Shanghai wrap up their two-day meeting with an unprecedented statement condemning terrorism
  • Taleban officials say up to 60 people have been killed in the western city of Herat in the last three days
  • The refugee exodus continues, as several thousand Afghans cross into Pakistan at Chaman on Saturday, and the UN says up to 10,000 people are massed on the other side.

New bombing raids

Low-flying US jets reportedly dropped at least four bombs on Kabul overnight, drawing less anti-aircraft fire than usual.

Pentagon video showing special forces in raid on Afghanistan
Ground forces attacked two targets in southern Afghanistan
But between seven and 13 people were reported killed and several others injured when a bomb fell on a residential area of the Khair Kana district in the north-east of the city.

Most of them were from the same family living in a two-storey house which was half demolished by the bomb.

"This pilot was like he was blind," said neighbour Haziz Ullah. "There are no military bases here - only innocent people."

The US planes were thought to be targeting a Taleban base several kilometres away.

Commando raid

More than 100 US special forces attacked an airfield and a command and control facility near where the Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar lived in Kandahar in the early hours of Saturday.

US defence chiefs said the squad of Army Rangers did not meet significant resistance from Taleban fighters and withdrew safely after several hours.

The US suffered its first casualties of the conflict when two servicemen died after a helicopter supporting the mission crashed in Pakistan.


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"President Bush has given the CIA a green light to do what ever it takes to kill Osama bin Laden"
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The Americans are continuing to rely on superior air power"
See also:

20 Oct 01 | South Asia
Key sites targeted by US troops
02 Oct 01 | America attacked
The CIA's greatest failure
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
US special forces 'inside Afghanistan'
01 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: US special forces
21 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban leader's son killed
21 Oct 01 | South Asia
Ramadan deadline looms for US action
21 Oct 01 | Media reports
Taleban counterclaims on US raid
21 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Apec unites against terrorism
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