Mission takes aim at Taliban

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 8, 2001

The Associated Press

Monday, October 08, 2001

The Natchez Democrat

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Black smoke billowed from the house

of the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar following

a wave of missile attacks Sunday on the heart of Afghanistan’s

ruling militia, Taliban sources said.

Omar survived, according to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan.

But the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar – already a shabby city

of rocket-gouged streets and bullet-scarred homes – appeared to

have borne the brunt of the U.S.-British attack to flush out terrorists

living in Afghanistan.

The assault on the southern Afghan city came in at least three

waves, according to Taliban sources who spoke to The Associated

Press by telephone on condition of anonymity.

The first was a punishing attack on the airport, which was

built by the United States as a refueling stop between Europe

and India before the long-haul Boeing 747s were introduced.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that began in 1979,

the airport served as a base for airstrikes against the U.S.-backed

Islamic resistance movement.

Today, the airport complex includes 300 houses built in 1996

for fighters the al-Qaida terrorist network, headed by Osama bin

Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United


The United States said Sunday’s strikes targeted the Taliban

leadership for harboring bin Laden and al-Qaida, which operates

camps throughout the country.

The sophistication of the force arrayed against the Taliban

tribesmen was brought to bear when a second round of attacks struck

the city, according to the sources.

In the second wave – more precise than the first – missiles

slammed into the Taliban’s military headquarters in the heart

of the city and Omar’s high-walled compound about 9 miles outside

Kandahar, the sources said.

Taliban ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef, said in Islamabad, Pakistan,

that Omar and bin Laden both were alive, but did not say whether

Omar was at home when the attacks began.

Omar had moved to the compound last year after a powerful explosion

outside his former city residence killed 42 people, including

several guards. The anti-Taliban northern alliance was blamed

for the blast.

Sunday’s hit was precise. The Taliban sources said the sun-baked

mud homes and high-walled compounds on the same sewer-lined road

as the military headquarters apparently escaped damage – though

they said authorities were not yet able to inspect closely to

make sure.

Last week, several Kandahar residents who had fled to neighboring

Pakistan said the heavily armed Taliban, who routinely were seen

loitering outside the military headquarters, had disappeared.

Inside the building, the few people visible were mostly Arab members

of al-Qaida, they said.

In the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, there were reports

of three explosions, including one south of the city in Farmada,

where hundreds of Arab fighters once lived.

Rishkore, a camp on the southern edge of Kabul, also apparently

was targeted Sunday. It was deserted months before last month’s

attack on the United States, according to residents in the capital.

But infrastructure remained, including houses, offices and training


Afghans who travel freely across the border say most of the

camps used by militants – mostly Arabs, Pakistanis, Uzbeks and

Chechens – were abandoned after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York

and Washington.

Destroying the al-Qaida training camps in the rugged mountain

ranges that crisscross Afghanistan will be more difficult, according

Taliban and other sources familiar with them.

”They have camps in every province,” said one senior Taliban

commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity.