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Afghanistan: Northern Alliance To Attack In Bombing Aftermath

Tehran, 8 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance says it is preparing for a major ground offensive against the ruling Taliban in the aftermath of the U.S.-led military campaign against the regime. Senior Alliance strategist Touryali Ghiasi told AP today that the Alliance forces "are in a state of absolute readiness."

He was speaking by phone from his base in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad.

Ghiasi said the militia's latest campaign could begin as early as tomorrow. He gave no details of the immediate military objectives of the Alliance, which holds about 10 percent of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, predicted yesterday that the Taliban would not be able to maintain control of Kabul for more than a few more days.

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf says he told U.S. President George W. Bush that Afghanistan's opposition should not be allowed to take advantage of U.S.-British military action against Osama bin Laden and his allies in the Taliban.

Musharraf, speaking at a news conference in Islamabad today, warned of anarchy if the anti-Taliban forces were allowed to dominate a future government. He said the Northern alliance must be "kept in check." Pakistan has been a supporter of the Taliban.

He said a future government must be broad-based, multiethnic, and not "imposed on Afghanistan." "Whatever dispensation, it must...[take] the demographic composition of Afghanistan in view." He said Pakistan wants a "friendly Afghanistan" at its border.

Musharraf said the U.S.-British military action is directed at "terrorist camps" around Afghan cities. He said he had assurances it will be short. And he called for a "major rehabilitation" plan once it was over.

Musharraf said Pakistan cannot take in refugees fleeing the U.S.-British strikes. He said refugee camps had to be established across the border in Afghanistan.

The United States and Britain are in the process of analyzing the destruction done in the bomb and missile strikes tha sought to cripple the Taliban regime and destroy terrorist operations in the country.

Explosions shook the capital Kabul and the cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad as the U.S. launched the first phase of military retaliation for the 11 September terrorist attacks on America.

U.S. officials said forces were targeting Taliban air defenses, airfields and aircraft, communications and radar facilities, as well as camps used by accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network.

Officials said some 50 cruise missiles had been launched in the assault that involved bombers, aircraft carriers and U.S. and British submarines.

The U.S. and British offensive was accompanied by air drops of thousands of food rations for needy Afghan civilians. U.S. President Bush said the air strikes had been "carefully targeted," with the aim of disrupting the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base and degrading the military capabilities of the Taliban.

Bush said the U.S. had won worldwide support for the operation, entitled "Enduring Freedom." "We are joined in this operation by our staunch friend Great Britain. Other close friends including Canada, Australia, Germany and France have pledged forces as the operation unfolds. More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia have granted air transit or landing rights. Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world."

Taliban officials condemned the U.S. and British strikes as an act of terrorism. The Taliban said its leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden had both survived the initial allied onslaught.

In a pre-recorded videotape responding to the military action, bin Laden said his Al-Qaeda group is ready for a confrontation with the United States. He said the American people will not be able to live in security until Palestinians can do the same. He also praised last month's attacks on New York and Washington, but did not claim responsibility for the assaults.

Countries around the world are further tightening security measures following the launch of military strikes by the United States and Britain against targets in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has urged boosted security precautions in American cities and urged American citizens in foreign countries to keep a low profile. The U.S. has also shut its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia due to security concerns.

The U.S. and British governments urged citizens living in Indonesia to stay inside to avoid expected protests by Islamic extremists.

Boosted security measures were reported in European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries that have backed U.S. retaliation over the 11 September terrorist assaults on America.

The U.S. and British military action has been supported by Russia, the European Union, Canada, Japan, Turkey, Israel and others.

China said it supported fighting terrorism, but said the U.S.-led attacks should take care to avoid civilian casualties.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called the allied military action "unacceptable" and warned against violations of Iranian territory during the operation.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein condemned the U.S. and British air strikes as an act of aggression in violation of international law. Saddam said the military action will create only greater disorder in the world.

Police in the western Pakistani city of Quetta fired tear gas today at thousands of demonstrators who set fire to buildings and damaged vehicles in protest against the U.S.-led strikes in Afghanistan.

The violence came after chief clerics of several mosques in Quetta announced that in the wake of the military action, jihad (holy struggle) was now "mandatory" for Pakistani Muslims.

Demonstrations were held in other Pakistani cities, and security forces throughout the country were on high alert.

In Peshawar near the Afghan border, police used tear gas to break up several protests held by angry students and some Afghan refugees.

Security forces in Karachi are braced for expected anti-American protests later today.

Violent anti-U.S. protests also erupted in India's Muslim-majority Kashmir state.

There are contradictory reports today on casualties resulting from the U.S.-led airstrikes on Afghanistan during the night.

The Taliban regime's official Voice of Shariat radio says the attacks on the capital Kabul caused no casualties or material damage in the city.

Earlier however, the Afghan Islamic Press agency reported that at least 20 people were killed in Kabul. It said the deaths occurred near the airport, and also near offices of the Voice of Shariat.

U.S.-British air raids were also carried out on Kandahar and Jalalabad. In Kandahar, Taliban officials say two people were killed and at least four others injured.

Ambassadors from the 19 NATO nations were meeting today at alliance headquarters in Brussels to analyze the first night of military strikes against Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

The meeting of the ambassadors in the North Atlantic Council was not expected to take any operational decisions. NATO as an organization is not directly involved in the attacks by U.S. and British forces.

NATO was informed in advance of last night's action and security has been upgraded at alliance installations in Belgium.

Although alliance structures are not involved, NATO on Tuesday invoked its founding treaty declaring the attacks on the United States an attack against all 19 members.