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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 03:24 GMT
US bombs 'Bin Laden hide-outs'
Northern Alliance troops fire a howitzer
The Northern Alliance want more US help
United States warplanes have targeted suspected underground command centres of Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network in eastern Afghanistan.

There's no question that Taleban and al-Qaeda people, military, have been killed

Donald Rumsfeld
US officials believe the labyrinth of caves and tunnels in the area are providing sanctuary for Bin Laden, and that searching for him there is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

However, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that over the entire course of the campaign some senior Taleban and al-Qaeda officials had been killed, but "none of the very top ... 10 people".

The United States is boosting its assistance for opposition Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan. Mr Rumsfeld said US planes had air-dropped supplies of ammunition to them.

Pentagon officials have insisted that they are "in the driver's seat" in the campaign.

"We are setting the conditions. They are not setting conditions for us," General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday.

Mr Rumsfeld denied reports from Afghanistan that Americans had been captured there.

"There have been no American military captured. Whether someone else may have been ... I don't think so," he said.

The Taleban, for their part, have told thousands of armed Pakistanis not to try to cross into Afghanistan to join the "holy war" against the US.

US and UK defence officials have said that they do not intend to suspend bombing of Afghanistan for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November.

New targets

US aircraft bombed Taleban front-line positions along Afghanistan's mountainous northern border with Tajikistan for the first time overnight on Sunday.

Opposition fighter
Opposition fighters are playing a waiting game
The attack was carried out during what Afghans have described as one of the quietest nights since the US-led bombardment of their country began on 7 October.

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

Civilians hit

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

Joint Chiefs chairman Richard Myers and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
The Pentagon says it is in control
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.

The BBC's John Simpson
"A lot of expensive high explosive is being used to very little effect"
The BBC's David Shukman
"The pressure to achieve something or stop can only intensify"
The BBC's John Pienaar
"The doubts aren't just in the media"
See also:

29 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban tell tribesmen to wait
28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
28 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition leader buried
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