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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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U.S. pounds Taliban troops; anthrax kills woman

WASHINGTON/KANDAHAR (REUTERS) — U.S. warplanes intensified bombing of front line Taliban troops in Afghanistan Wednesday, as Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair toured the Middle East to boost Arab support for the campaign and a fourth American died from anthrax poisoning.

The Pentagon said its aircraft had been carpet-bombing Taliban troops north of Kabul as a result of improved targeting intelligence, partly from U.S. special forces on the ground.

Witnesses reported seeing a wall of orange flame and huge clouds of dust and counted as many as 100 explosions after a B-52 bomber dropped its load on Taliban positions overlooking Bagram airbase from where the opposition Northern Alliance is anxious to begin an offensive against Kabul.

U.S. warplanes have been targeting Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda movement, as well as Taliban forces harboring him, in reprisal for last month’s attacks on New York and Washington that killed about 4,800 people.

“We have many more targets now. I think today we’re up to something like 80 percent of all of our sorties are focused on the Taliban and al Qaeda forces and the only way that could be done is if the people on the ground were providing much better target information,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview on NBC.

The Pentagon said Rumsfeld would travel to Moscow and the region near Afghanistan Friday to discuss the war.

Muslims angered by civilian casualties

The number of civilian casualties in the air war has angered Muslims across the world, putting U.S. allies in the region on edge and appearing to hurt public support elsewhere.

Blair visited Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan Wednesday to reinvigorate Arab backing for Washington’s war on terrorism, declared after the Sept. 11 attacks. He sought to defend the U.S. bombing to Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I think that people understand that when so many thousands of people are slaughtered in cold blood in the way they were, that we have to bring to account those responsible,” he said in Saudi Arabia. “I also think people want us to do everything we can to minimize civilian casualties in the action we take. And we do.”

Saudi officials have said they back the global fight against terrorism but want the air strikes against Afghanistan concluded swiftly.

Saudi sources also said Saudi officials would try to drive home to Blair the message that until a solution is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Middle East will continue to be a breeding ground for discontent.

Expanding its public-relations offensive, the White House said the United States and Britain would set up communications centers in Washington, London and Islamabad to counter “misinformation” by the Taliban and to reach out to Muslims around the world.

U.S. planes hit the Taliban power base of Kandahar in southeast Afghanistan on Wednesday in a pre-dawn strike. A doctor in the town told foreign reporters escorted by Taliban militia that the planes hit an International Red Crescent Society clinic and killed 11 people.

The Pentagon denied bombing the Red Crescent clinic.

“It was a legitimate terrorist target, intentionally struck,” said Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman, who added that both a hospital and Red Crescent facility very close to the target were not damaged by the satellite-guided 2,000-pound (900 kg) bomb.

The Taliban say around 1,500 people, many of them civilians, have been killed since the U.S. air campaign began Oct. 7, but there is no independent confirmation. U.S.
officials admit hitting several civilian targets by mistake but dismiss the Taliban death toll claim as wildly exaggerated.

Washington launched its air assault after the ruling Islamic fundamentalist Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, whom the United States accuses of masterminding the Sept. 11
hijacking attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

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Strikes focus on Taliban military targets

Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, a senior operations officer on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said the focus of the U.S. strikes were “targets involving terrorists and Taliban command and control locations, including bunkers and tunnels, as well as airfield facilities and Taliban military forces.”

Washington said this week it had a small number of ground troops inside Afghanistan whose job was to liaise with leaders of the opposition Northern Alliance and provide intelligence to the attackers.

A Northern Alliance leader said the opposition was preparing to launch an assault on Taliban front lines north of Kabul in the next few days.

Ahmad Ziah Masood, a brother of assassinated opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood and a member of the movement’s senior council, told Reuters: “I hope that in the next few days a final decision will be taken and an offensive (on Kabul) started as soon as possible.”

Masood said he had been told by friends arriving from Kandahar that bin Laden was hiding in mountains north of Kandahar, between the provinces of Oruzgan and Ghazni.

If the reports are true, it would mean bin Laden is around 150 to 180 miles (250 to 300 km) north of Kandahar in a mountain range where the peaks are more than 13,000 ft. high.

The United States, which dropped another 34,000 food packages into Afghanistan Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 1 million, said it would do everything possible to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the approaching winter.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said it would buy $11.2 million of foreign wheat to feed hungry Afghans.

“We’re using every available means and every available route to get food to needy Afghans before the winter sets in,” USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios said in a statement.

The U.N. World Food Program plans to air drop emergency aid over parts of northern Afghanistan that get cut off by snow if it cannot deliver food to them before winter.

Aid agencies estimate that 7.5 million people face hunger in Afghanistan in the harsh winter.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers failed to persuade Iran to open its border to admit Afghans facing severe hardship. He spent four days unsuccessfully trying to persuade Pakistan to allow in more refugees.
Switzerland said it had frozen 24 bank accounts of individuals, companies and organizations on a list circulated Oct. 12 by the United States as part of the crackdown against terrorism.
The State Department vowed to tighten its visa procedures, saying 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks entered the country with papers obtained from U.S. missions in Saudi Arabia.

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