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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 12:55 GMT
US bombs Taleban targets in north
Northern Alliance tank position
Northern Alliance fighters stand to benefit
American aircraft have bombed Taleban front-line positions along Afghanistan's mountainous northern border with Tajikistan for the first time.

The attack was carried out during what Afghans have described as one of the quietest nights since the American bombardment of their country began on 7 October.

We had a good night's sleep - there were no explosions at all

Kabul resident
Soldiers from the opposition Northern Alliance watched as the jets attacked the Taleban positions at Dast-e-Qala

One Northern Alliance commander said it would help his troops break through the Taleban lines.

But BBC correspondent Jonathan Charles, who watched the raids, says there is no sign of an imminent assault against the 6,000 Taleban soldiers said to be in the area.

He adds that it will take a lot more than a few isolated American air attacks to spur the badly-equipped and poorly-trained Northern Alliance into action.

The BBC Afghanistan correspondent Kate Clark says the night in the capital was quiet.

"We had a good night's sleep," one Kabul resident told her by telephone. "There were no explosions at all," he said.

The Taleban's news agency reported that in the southern city of Kandahar, too, US planes dropped only three bombs at dawn.

Improve coordination

More details are emerging about the American bombing of civilian areas in Afghanistan over the last few days.

Opposition fighter
Opposition fighters are playing a waiting game
In Kabul on Sunday morning, 10 people were killed when a bomb struck three houses.

Opposition forces confronting Taleban troops in this area had complained that the American air strikes were not doing enough to advance their cause.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesmen had no immediate comment on the latest strikes and civilian casualties involved. The US has stressed repeatedly that civilians are never deliberately targeted.

Mr Rumsfeld denied that the military campaign against the Taleban and Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network in Afghanistan, now in its fourth week, was getting bogged down.

smoke rises from Taleban positions near Tajik border
The weekend saw more sustained attacks
"We are getting much better information from the ground in terms of targets," he said.

"Also, the pressure that has been put on fairly continuously these past weeks has forced people to move and to change locations in a way that gives additional targeting opportunities."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has given support to the US campaign in Afghanistan, says the bombing should stop during the forthcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

But Mr Rumsfeld would not rule out continuing the air campaign during that time.

"Muslim countries have fought during Ramadan from day one, and the Northern Alliance and the Taleban fought over a period years over Ramadan," he said.

'Bitter lesson'

Despite the intense bombing campaign, Taleban leader Mullah Omar remains defiant.

"We have not yet begun the real war against the United States because of their technological superiority," he said in an interview published on Sunday in Algerian newspaper El Youm.

"We will give them a more bitter lesson than the one we gave the Russians," he added, referring to the Soviet Union's military defeat after it invaded and occupied Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"A new front; an intensification of the war"
The BBC's Jane Bennett Powell
"Help from ground-troops will not be immediate"
General Wesley Clark, former allied commander
"You've got to put a face on the enemy"
See also:

28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
28 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition leader buried
27 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Bombing strategy fails to lure defectors
27 Oct 01 | South Asia
US admits second bombing error
25 Oct 01 | South Asia
Call for cluster bombs halt
29 Oct 01 | Americas
New case of anthrax in US
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