US forces relentlessly pounded Taliban targets Sunday and Monday morning as Washington rejected a new offer from the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell headed for Pakistan to shore up support for the allied campaign.
Taliban had by its offer rejected “a second chance” given by US President George W. Bush Thursday to hand over Osama Bin Laden, a suspected terrorist, and his lieutenants.
The Taliban chief’s offer came in an interview with the Saudi Al Watan newspaper. “This is non-negotiable,” he said.
Returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp David, Bush said the bombing would not stop unless the ruling Taliban meet his terms, according to AP.
Meanwhile, US-led forces bombed Jalalabad Monday morning with at least 10 explosions heard on the outskirts of this eastern Afghan city, an AFP reporter said.
The attack started about 8:30am (0400 GMT) and the Taliban responded by firing anti-aircraft batteries, the reporter said.
The AFP journalist was one of a group of foreign reporters allowed into Afghanistan by the Taliban to inspect the effect of US strikes on a village near Jalalabad, in which the ruling regime claims at least 200 civilians died.
"Two bombs were dropped at our military headquarters east of Jalalabad airport," Taliban Culture and Information Minister Haji Attiqullah Azizi told AFP.
Azizi gave no immediate details of damage or casualties.
Two hours earlier, US jets launched a new assault on the Afghan capital with two explosions heard in the city.
The jets first appeared over Kabul at about 6:15am (01:45 GMT) and the first explosion occurred less than 30 minutes later, the reporter said.
A second explosion was heard about 9:20am, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
The post-dawn air assault on Kabul started about five hours after US warplanes ended a night attack, which residents said resulted in at least seven explosions.
An explosion rocked Kabul after nightfall as planes roared overhead and anti-aircraft batteries opened fire, just 30 minutes after power supplies were cut - now a ritual precursor to nighttime air raids in the capital.
STOCK MARKET SHAKY, GERM WARFARE FEARS SPREAD
As non-stop strikes to dislodge bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network from Taliban-protected bases continued, stock markets faced the prospect of shaky starts Monday in the face of war talk from Al Qaeda and threats of germ warfare.
US Attorney General John Ashcroft told CBS television Sunday that he did not rule out the possibility of a connection between bin Laden and 10 confirmed cases of anthrax in the United States.
Later, two new cases appeared, sending the country into more alarm over the possibility of a germ war, which has also reached Australia.
TV reports said that part of Sydney airport was cordoned off to check three boxes of suspected powder, similar to that found in letters sent to US media insitutions. At least one of them tested positive for anthrax.
Fears of bioterrorism spread to Europe as England's historic Canterbury Cathedral was evacuated after a man was seen to drop white powder in a chapel.
"When police arrived (the man) could not be found," a police spokeswoman said. "We are actively searching for him."
Firefighters wearing chemical protection suits were attempting to clear up the powder and taking samples for analysis, and the spokeswoman said it was "still too early to say exactly what the powder is."
PROTESTS CONTINUE, VIOLENCE REPORTED
One person was killed and 24 were wounded as police fought gunbattles with up to 4,000 Muslim hardliners in the southern Pakistani town of Jacobabad, said reports.
During the night, two Pakistani policemen were killed by unidentified gunmen in Karachi.
Police said they arrested 400 people who converged on the town in Sindh province for a rally and a march on a nearby air base that Islamabad has put at US disposal for logistic support.
Pakistani popular support for the Taliban - despite President Pervez Musharraf's backing of the US anti-terror campaign - was highlighted in a public opinion poll scheduled to appear in Monday's edition of Newsweek magazine.
The survey shows only 12 percent of Pakistanis blame bin Laden for the September 11 attacks, while 48 percent believe they were carried out by Israel; 83 percent say they sympathize with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria's troubled Muslim-majority north Kano, the official death toll in two days of riots sparked by a protest against the air strikes rose to at least 13, with many residents predicting a much higher figure.
In other demonstrations Sunday:
- More than 2,000 Nepalese leftists took to the streets of Kathmandu, warning that the air strikes could lead to World War III.
- Police in Jakarta arrested 27 people out of a group of 65 detained at a train station as they arrived for an anti-US rally in posession of knives, swords and slingshots.
- Truncheon-wielding Turkish police broke up a left-wing demonstration by about 500 people in Istanbul, arresting 44.
- More than 30,000 people in Perugia, Italy, took part in a traditional peace march, dominated this year by opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan.
- Also in Italy, 500 Muslims immigrants protested in Turin against US military action and heard religious leaders proclaim bin Laden innocent in the September 11 attacks.
The demonstrations in Europe came in the wake of peaceful protest rallies Saturday in close US allies Britain, Germany and France, as well as in Switzerland.
POWELL HEADS TO ISLAMABAD UNDER TIGHT SECURITY
US Secretary of State Powell headed for Pakistan and India on Sunday to try to cool passions between the nuclear-armed regional rivals that have been further heightened by the US-British bombing campaign in Afghanistan, according to agencies.
Although his schedule was being kept secret, Powell was expected to be in Islamabad on Monday and visit New Delhi before setting off for talks with counterparts from 20 other countries at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering in Shanghai, China October 17 and 18.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters that Powell would discuss the shape of a future Afghan government with Pakistan's rulers.
In the meanwhile, the foreign minister of the North Alliance opposition forces in Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, told Al Jazeera satellite channel Sunday that Taliban’s offer to the alliance to join them in their fight against the US was rejected, adding that hundreds of Taliban troops were joining the opposition in the north.
The Northern Alliance seeks to play a key part in the political future of Afghanistan, which has not seen peace since well before the Soviet invasion in 1979.
The official told reporters that the United States did not want to tell Afghans how to run their country, but that history showed they did best in a loose federation with a high degree of local autonomy.
According to Reuters, citing a US official, President Bush has begun to plan for dealing with a future Afghanistan government if the Taliban regime should fall under US-led attacks – Albawaba.com
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