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Afghanistan: U.S. Continues Strikes On Front Lines At Kabul

Kabul, 22 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States today staged its third raid on Taliban front lines north of the Afghan capital Kabul. In the second day of attacks on Taliban positions, two U.S. jets reportedly fired on targets near the front line between Taliban positions and the opposition Northern Alliance. A U.S. helicopter gunship also attacked a hill in eastern Afghanistan close to the Pakistani border.

The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef said today that up to 100 people were killed when U.S. planes bombed a hospital in the western city of Herat.

"Today a 100-bed hospital in Herat was bombed by American and British planes. More than 100 people are reported to have been martyred. They are patients, doctors, nurses, and other staffers who were present there."

The U.S. Defense Department said it could npt immediately confirm or deny the report, but denied other Taliban claims that U.S. forces are using chemical and biological weapons and that the Taliban shot down an American helicopter. The Pentagon also had no immediate comment on reports that U.S. fighter jets had dropped at least two bombs near opposition posts at the front lines north of Kabul.

Opposition commander General Baryalai said today the Northern Alliance was ready to launch an assault on the key Taliban-held town of Mazar-i-Sharif.

In other news, a group of perhaps 750 Afghan refugees forced their way into Pakistan at two sections near the Chaman border point today after scuffling with border forces.

Pakistan's military said the refugees pelted border security officers with stones, then dismantled barbed-wire fences and rushed police.

The breech occurred while Pakistani officials were meeting with representatives of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban with the aim of averting trouble at the border.

UN refugee workers earlier today appealed again without success to Pakistan to open its borders as up to 15,000 people massed at Chaman.

The international aid agency Oxfam said today that U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan must be suspended to allow food supplies to reach Afghanis.

Also, the supreme leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban today renewed his call for a "jihad" against the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan. Mullah Mohammed Omar made the call in a statement issued from his hiding place in the city of Kandahar.

The U.S.-led bombing campaign entered its third week in an attempt to weaken the Taliban and flush out Osama bin Laden, the man wanted for last month's terror attacks on the U.S.

Senior Washington officials (unnamed) said yesterday that U.S. President George W. Bush last month signed an order directing the CIA to destroy bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network.

Asked about the report, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he could not comment on what he said is a "very sensitive issue."