Assault on Kandahar Intensifies; Heavy Civilian Casualties Reported in US Bombing near Jalalabad

Published December 4th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Tribal fighters fought the Taliban at Kandahar airport Monday, amid reports that US bombing raids near Jalalabad had killed scores of civilians, said reports. 

The last remaining Taliban stronghold in Kandahar was nearly cut off from the surrounding countryside Monday, said CNN, after intense bombing destroyed two bridges leading into the southern Afghan city.  

Airstrikes pounded Kandahar Sunday night and Monday, mostly centered on the airport east of the city, reported the news network, adding that villagers recounted exchanges of gunfire and artillery fire in that area. 

As fighting intensified around Kandahar, tribal forces under commander Gul Agha told AP they had seized a guard tower at the corner of the city's airport and battled Taliban forces on the airport grounds.  

Meanwhile, US aircraft, military personnel and supplies poured into a primitive desert airfield over the weekend as US Marines and Afghan opposition groups prepared for a possible final assault on Kandahar, said CNN. 

In the off-target bombings, B-52s unloaded bombs on positions thought to be a sanctuary to Osama bin Laden in the Jalalabad region, said AP, which reported that journalists visited flattened villages in the area. 

Anti-Taliban officials told them that the U.S. air strikes appeared to have been misdirected, killing scores of civilians.  

A senior Pentagon official called the reports ``suspect,'' added the agency.  

In the search for fugitive foes, US heavy bombers struck the mountainous Tora Bora region Monday for the fourth straight day to flush out Taliban and Al Qaeda members believed to be hiding in a network of caves and tunnels in the area, an opposition security chief told CNN.  

Mujahedeen commander Hazrat Ali told reporters Al Qaeda leader bin Laden had asked anti-Taliban mujahedeen commanders to refrain from launching attacks on Tora Bora, said CNN. 

Bin Laden reportedly said he was ready to fight "foreigners" but not the Afghan mujahedeen, many of whom fought alongside bin Laden to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989.  

Nevertheless, Ali said the commanders rejected bin Laden's request and were planning to use at least 1,000 fighters in an assault on Tora Bora. 




In Germany, the opposition Northern Alliance has come forward with its list of people it would like to see involved in a transitional government of Afghanistan, putting talks among four Afghan factions back on track just as they were close to going off the rails, a US official told CNN. 

In a night of frantic diplomacy in Koenigswinter, Germany, a White House official, Zalmay Khalilzad, telephoned alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul, winning a promise to release a long-delayed list of candidates for the interim administration, AP quoted US envoy James F. Dobbins as saying. 

The news is good for the Western alliance, which has been trying to head off ethnic-based civil wars similar to those that erupted in Afghanistan in the early 1990s -

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