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Saturday, 27 October, 2001, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK
US jets bombard Taleban front line
Northern Alliance soldier
The front line has not moved in three weeks
US warplanes have carried out what eyewitnesses described as the most sustained bombing raids so far on Taleban front line positions north of the Afghan capital Kabul.

Taleban fighters hit back with salvoes of anti-aircraft fire at the American warplanes, and fired rockets and mortars at opposition Northern Alliance positions.

Click here for map of reported air strikes

There are reports that a stray US bomb may have killed up to 10 people in a northern Afghan village in territory controlled by the Northern Alliance.

F-14D fighter on USS Carl Vinson
The US bombing campaign has been criticised by the Northern Alliance
The latest US air raids came after the Afghan opposition expressed growing frustration with the American military campaign against the Taleban regime, which they said was not helping their struggle on the ground.

A BBC correspondent says the front lines have not moved outside Kabul in three weeks, and apparently not much elsewhere.

The targets of Saturday's attacks by US jets included Taleban positions on a hill overlooking Bagram airport, a crucial Northern Alliance position.

The alliance holds the airport, but cannot use it because it is vulnerable to Taleban fire. Unhindered control of it could make a significant difference to resupplying their forward troops, particularly as winter closes in.

In other developments:

  • Pakistani border guards halt a convoy of thousands of armed Pakistani tribesmen who want to help the Taleban fight back against the US
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says he believes Pakistan is ready to ease the border closure preventing thousands of Afghan refugees from entering the country
  • UK Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce says the war on terror may last half a century
  • The Taleban say Michel Peyrard, a French journalist they detained earlier this month, will be put on trial in a few days time
  • Traces of anthrax are found in the offices of three more US congressmen in Washington

The daylight ariel bombardment followed a night of heavy air raids on Kabul following the Taleban's execution on Friday of a prominent opposition leader, Abdul Haq.

Haq was captured after crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan to try to gather support among the country's majority Pashtuns for an anti-Taleban alliance.

Abdul Haq
Haq's death is a blow to the anti-Taleban forces
Officials in Washington have confirmed that US aircraft in the area attempted to help Haq when it became clear he was in trouble.

The Afghan Islamic Press news agency reported that his body had been taken to Kabul, where relatives would collect it for burial in Peshawar in Pakistan on Sunday.

A Taleban spokesman in Kabul has told the BBC Pashtu service that about 10 days ago, Taleban forces captured and executed another five Northern Alliance commanders near Balkh in northern Afghanistan.

He said many other opposition soldiers were also captured, and were being held pending investigations.

Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, has suggested in an interview with ABC News that the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan posed the threat of a long entanglement for the US-led coalition.

"If the military objectives are such that their attainment is causing difficulty... then yes, it may be a quagmire," he said.

ICRC damage, Kabul
Red Cross stores and vehicles were badly damaged by US bombs
Mr Musharraf told reporters after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok that he hoped the campaign could end soon.

"One can only hope and wish that the military objectives are achieved and it remains as short as possible," he said.

Prior to Saturday's attacks on the Taleban front line, Northern Alliance leader Abdullah Abdullah had made his strongest criticism to date of US military tactics.

He said the US air strikes would have been more effective if there had been better co-ordination with the opposition forces on the ground.

The Taleban "have been hit badly, but they could have been hit 10 times harder had there been different tactics", he said.

But he also expressed confidence that Osama Bin Laden, the Islamic militant being sheltered by the Taleban who is suspected of masterminding the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, would be captured.

'Game plan'

The Pentagon says the US is following a war strategy that does not always coincide with the objectives of the Northern Alliance.

"We're not going to adapt our game plan to theirs, necessarily, nor would we expect them to adapt to ours," said Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem.

The Pentagon has admitted that US Navy fighters and B-52 bombers mistakenly bombed warehouses used by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday.

The ICRC said that the warehouses contained food, blankets and other material that was to be distributed to thousands of disabled and needy people in the city.

And the United Nations said an American bomb hit a UN centre housing dogs used in mine-clearing operations, killing two of the animals.

US psychological operations radio on Saturday broadcast a message warning Afghans of the danger of confusing food drops with cluster bombs, both of which are coloured yellow.

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

Click here to return

The BBC's Paul Adams
"The Taleban are proving tenacious opponents"
Mario Musa, spokesman for the Red Cross
says they have lost the majority of their stock during the strikes
See also:

27 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Bombing strategy fails to lure defectors
27 Oct 01 | South Asia
Mystery surrounds Haq's final journey
26 Oct 01 | South Asia
Exiled warlord 'in talks with Taleban'
27 Oct 01 | South Asia
US admits second bombing error
25 Oct 01 | South Asia
Call for cluster bombs halt
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