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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Taleban 'shelter in civilian areas'
A house destroyed in the capital Kabul
The US admits that civilian areas have been hit
Taleban forces in Kabul are moving into residential areas of the city in order to make it harder for the Americans to bomb, a United Nations official has said, citing independent sources in the Afghan capital.

But the US says it will not be deterred from its air campaign, while indicating that further commando and other ground operations will be used to flush the Taleban out.

Residential areas and some villages around Kabul are becoming more dangerous because Taleban troops are moving into those areas

UN's Stephanie Bunker
And the opposition Northern Alliance called on the US to concentrate its fire on Taleban front line positions rather than on targets in or near Afghan cities.

US aircraft carried out more heavy raids over Kabul on Wednesday, with an eyewitness reporting several bombs or missiles exploding near the Taleban front lines.

But the BBC's Kate Clark says strikes on front line positions north of the city have been limited, with Tuesday's raids thought to be aimed specifically at concentrations of Arab and Pakistani fighters rather than the Afghan Taleban.

Raids have been continuing near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, where the Taleban is engaged in fierce fighting with two groups of Northern Alliance fighters.

Speaking on Tuesday night, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Taleban had probably realised that troops in the field and at military installations were vulnerable to air raids.

Deputy director of operations Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said: "There is not an intention to open or widen attacks in the cities... We will find other ways to get at those who might cowardly decide to hide in residential neighbourhoods."

The Washington Post newspaper quoted Mohammad Ali, a refugee who recently fled from the capital, as saying that people were "very angry and worried" that the Taleban were storing their weapons in public places and thus leaving them vulnerable to air strikes.

Click here for map of the latest strikes

Admiral Stufflebeem said the Pentagon was targeting roads, trucks, petrol facilities, food and other supplies the Taleban leaders needed to stay in power, but choking them off would be "a very long and slow process".

In other developments:

  • US Attorney General John Ashcroft says the hijackers involved in the 11 September attacks on America used the German city of Hamburg as their central base of operations
  • Reports are confirmed that the Taleban has begun distributing arms to civilians in the south and east of Afghanistan
    Bombing victim
    Some civilian casualties have been confirmed
  • At least 22 people, all of them Pakistani militants, are killed in a bomb attack on a house in Kabul - the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency says Pakistan has refused to let some of the bodies back into the country
  • Anthrax is found in a post office serving the White House, but the presidential residence itself is not affected
  • Afghan tribal chiefs gather in the Pakistani city of Peshawar to discuss alternatives to the Taleban regime
  • Pakistan and the Taleban agree to set up camps in Afghanistan away from the border for thousands of refugees
  • A Japanese man - thought to be a journalist - is detained by the Taleban in eastern Afghanistan

Stray bombs

Earlier, the US admitted that three of its bombs had missed their targets over the weekend.

The United Nations said it had received reports that a military hospital has been destroyed in the western Afghan city of Herat.

UN spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker told a news conference in Pakistan that the 100-bed hospital was apparently struck on Sunday during a US air raid.

Opposition fighter at Chahrak
Opposition forces hold about 10% of Afghan territory
The Taleban claim that 100 patients and medical workers were killed at the hospital, although that figure cannot be independently verified.

And the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency, which has close links to the Taleban, reported that US bombing had killed 52 people in a village near the southern city of Kandahar. There has been no independent confirmation.

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

See also:

24 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghans discuss political future
24 Oct 01 | South Asia
Pakistan rejects militants' bodies
23 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The tough battle for Mazar
23 Oct 01 | UK
UK ponders troop deployment
16 Oct 01 | Americas
Why bombing can go wrong
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