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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 20:05 GMT
Bombing to go on during Ramadan
A wrecked car in a bombed village near Kandahar
The Taleban have shown journalists flattened villages
The White House has announced that air strikes on Afghanistan will not be suspended during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, ending weeks of speculation.

Several Islamic leaders have voiced fears that a continuation of the raids during Ramadan - a month long period of fasting for Muslims around the world - could cause major unrest in their countries.


We do not believe that al-Qaeda or the Taleban are likely to be ones who are going to be observant of any kind of rules of civilisation

Condoleezza Rice
US National Security Advisor
But US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told a press briefing in Washington the US "could not afford" a pause in its campaign and that the bombings would continue.

At the same time, the Pentagon confirmed that it was preparing to substantially increase the number of troops on the ground in Afghanistan - currently estimated to be fewer than 100.

"I want to see the number of teams go up by three or four times as soon as possible," Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a news briefing.

The BBC's Tim Franks in Washington says these are the strongest signals yet that the US intends to step up the pace of the war.

Raids continued over Afghanistan on Thursday.

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

The Taleban regime, which is harbouring Osama Bin Laden - the man suspected of masterminding the 11 September terror attacks on the US, said that American bombs hit one of the country's biggest power plants, cutting electricity supplies to the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar and the city of Lashkargah.

A Taleban spokesman said if there was any further damage to the Kajaki dam which feeds the power station, thousands of people would be at risk from flooding.

map
There has been no independent confirmation of the attack on the dam, which the Taleban say is nowhere near any military installation.

The BBC's Simon Ingram, one of the foreign journalists taken by the Taleban to visit the Kandahar area, has been to a village that was flattened in an air raid.

"What we found was a scene of total destruction. A number of houses, about 40 or 50 in all, completely destroyed," he reported from Choker Kariz.

The reports came as the Pentagon told reporters that B-52 bombers were being used to pound Taleban positions across the country.

The policy of carpet-bombing appears to mark a change of US strategy of covering wide areas instead of individual targets - a tactic which may make it easier for anti-Taleban forces to pursue ground attacks.

In other developments:

  • Hamid Karzai, a prominent supporter of the former Afghan king, says his forces have begun fighting the Taleban in an area north of Kandahar
  • US President George W Bush is to meet the leaders of Britain, France, India, Brazil, Algeria, and Ireland next week to discuss the war on terrorism
  • United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says less than half the volume of food aid required by Afghanistan is getting through
  • Lithuanian experts confirm that traces of anthrax have been found in a postbag at the US embassy in Vilnius - the first case of its kind in Europe
  • UN Afghanistan envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warns he can give no timetable for a political solution on a future alternative government to the Taleban
  • The UK and US are setting up a rapid reaction media centre in Pakistan to aid the propaganda battle during military action

Local people say up to 90 people died in Choker Kariz - almost the entire population of the village.

"The evidence we were shown was extremely powerful and it leads us to conclude that this was a very serious blunder on the part of the United States," said our correspondent.

A detailed examination of the scene revealed no evidence that the village might have been used by Taleban fighters or any other reason for it to have been targeted.

Taleban fighters
The Taleban say they beat back an opposition offensive
The Taleban claim that the US-led bombing campaign has cost 1,500 civilian lives since it began on 7 October. US officials contend that the regime's estimates are greatly exaggerated.

But General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted on Thursday that the US practice of dropping food aid in yellow plastic coverings, the same colour as bomblets from cluster bombs that do not always explode on impact, was "unfortunate".

Pentagon officials said they were looking into covering the food drops in a blue wrap to stop Afghans picking up explosives instead of food.

Cluster bombs have proved to be a particularly controversial aspect of the US campaign, as many believe their primary victims are civilians.

The Taleban claimed that they have repulsed the first co-ordinated air and ground offensive by Northern Alliance troops and US warplanes, in the key valley of Dara-e-Souf.

But the Northern Alliance has denied launching any such assault.

For its part, the US has dismissed Taleban claims that they shot down an American aircraft on Thursday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Webb
"They'll be no let up in the bombardment of Afghanistan"
See also:

01 Nov 01 | South Asia
Key commander 'escapes Taleban'
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Media war goes to Pakistan
31 Oct 01 | South Asia
US denies soldiers captured by Taleban
28 Oct 01 | Media reports
Radio warns Afghans over food parcels
01 Nov 01 | Americas
Profile: B-52 bomber
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