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Afghanistan: Pakistani Militants Killed In Kabul

Islamabad, 24 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- An outlawed militant group in Pakistan claims at least 22 of its members were killed in Afghanistan's capital during U.S. air strikes. The claims of the Harkat ul-Mujahedin could not be independently confirmed.

Muzamal Shah, a senior leader of the group, said in Lahore that those killed had traveled from Pakistan to Afghanistan to help the Taliban "fight against America." He said they were in a meeting at a house in Kabul when a bomb hit.

The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency, which is based in Pakistan, said the Pakistani government has refused to allow some of the bodies to be returned to Pakistan.

The United States recently listed the Harkat ul-Mujahedin group as a terrorist organization. Pakistan earlier this month closed the group's offices. Harkat ul-Mujahedin is fighting in Indian Kashmir for the region's merger with Pakistan.

Taliban officials and witnesses said U.S. planes attacked Taliban positions near Afghanistan's capital Kabul again today.

Witnesses said U.S. planes attacked positions of the ruling Islamic militia on the front line north of Kabul. The attacks ceased before dawn.

Taliban spokesman Amir Khan Muttaqi told AIP that U.S. planes hit residential areas in the eastern and southwestern parts of Kabul overnight. He said casualties were not yet known but AIP said initial reports spoke of seven civilians killed.

AIP also said more than 50 villagers were killed when U.S. warplanes dropped bombs on a village near Kandahar in the south yesterday.

Neither claim could be independently confirmed.

Yesterday, the U.S. military admitted two instances where bombs missed their targets and hit civilian areas. But a Pentagon spokesman also said the Taliban were deliberately hiding among the civilian population.

Allied officials say U.S.-led air strikes have destroyed all nine training camps in Afghanistan of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The disclosure was made in London late yesterday by British Secretary of State for Defense Geoff Hoon. He said that the air strikes have crippled the Taliban air force and given encouragement to anti-Taliban Afghan forces.

At the U.S. Defense Department, officials say two U.S. helicopters came under fire while in Pakistan as their crews tried to retrieve the wreckage of another helicopter that had crashed during a covert weekend commando raid into Afghanistan.

In another development, the Pentagon said three U.S. bombs went astray over the weekend, with two landing in a civilian neighborhood near Kabul and the other near a senior citizens' center in Hera. The military said it had no information on casualties.

U.S. officials say they will not halt military action against Afghan military and terrorist targets during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan unless its objectives are met. Ramadan starts on 17 November this year.