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
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
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.