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Afghanistan: U.S. Continues Bombing Taliban

Kabul, 6 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. warplanes today continued bombing the Taliban's last stronghold in and around the southern city of Kandahar as well as an Al-Qaeda cave hideout at the eastern Tora Bora complex. U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Admiral John Stufflebeem said yesterday that anti-Taliban Afghan fighters had already entered some caves in the search for Al-Qaeda members.

U.S. Special Forces are said to be in the area helping direct air strikes and gathering intelligence.

Reports say the Taliban still maintains an armed presence in several areas of Afghanistan, particularly in the north near the town of Balkh and east of Kondoz as well as south of the western city of Hebron. Reports say these Taliban units are only lightly armed.

Three U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in Afghanistan yesterday when a U.S. bomb was accidentally dropped too close to their position north of the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Five anti-Taliban fighters were killed. Seventeen U.S. soldiers and 18 anti-Taliban fighters suffered what the U.S. Central Command called moderate to severe injuries. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered an investigation into the incident.

Some news reports said the bombing also injured Hamid Karzai, who was chosen yesterday to lead the post-Taliban interim administration in Afghanistan. But he denied in an interview with British television that he had been hurt.

As far as Afghanistan's future is concerned, an ethnic Uzbek warlord says he will boycott the interim Afghan government to be installed in Kabul. General Abdul Rashid Dostum today told Reuters news agency by satellite telephone from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that his Uzbek Junbish-i-Milli faction was underrepresented under the agreement setting the interim government.

Dostum said he demanded that the foreign ministry be given to his group and received only the portfolios of agriculture and mining and industry. He regarded the offer as "humiliating." Dostum said he would not go to Kabul until "there is a proper government in place."

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council late last night urged rival Afghan groups to work together "in good faith" to implement the agreement. The council said in a statement that it is ready to support the process of transition of power in Afghanistan.

Separately, an international conference to coordinate aid for Afghanistan continues today in Berlin. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer opened the conference yesterday. It began hours after four Afghan groups meeting near Bonn agreed on an interim administration for Afghanistan.

Fischer said the conference must give "a clear signal" that the international community will not leave the Afghan people alone in hunger and need. The meeting is expected to address the Afghan refugee crisis, the thousands of displaced people within the country due to famine and war, the return of refugees and exiles from abroad and other aspects of the country's reconstruction.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers is among top officials at the meeting. Participants said they expect the agreement on the interim administration will lead to a firm commitment from donor countries.