45 dead as Kandahar, Herat pounded: Taliban claim downing plane
By Saleem Shahid
CHAMAN, Dec 1: US warplanes carried out carpet bombing on Taliban positions in and around Kandahar and also hit three refugee vehicles killing at least 15 people, on Saturday.
The Taliban claimed to have shot down an American warplane near Kandahar. They said the plane crashed near Kandahar airport. However, there was no confirmation of the Taliban's claim from any independent source.
B-52 bombers, refuelling in mid-air, bombed the area continuously. The bombing, which started late on Friday night, continued the whole day on Saturday, causing massive destruction and killings, travellers coming from Kandahar confirmed. However, the exact number of causalties could not be verified immediately.
US planes were hitting every moving vehicle considering it Taliban militia, an Afghan refugee, Karim Khan, coming from Kandahar on Saturday morning told Dawn at the border. He said these planes attacked three vehicles carrying Afghan refugees near the Maji hotel in Arghisan.
"At least 15 Afghan refugees, including women and children, who were on their way to Pakistan, were killed in the attack," Karim Khan said.
"Warplanes dropped heavy bombs in the Jada area in Herat in the early hours of Saturday killing over 30 people and injuring many more", said an eyewitness, Mohammad Omar.
"After bombing Baba Sahib mountains area, the US planes pounded the Jada area of Kandahar. Many people were killed and injured but I do not know the exact number of deaths," said the eyewitness at the Chaman border. He had arrived from Kandahar in the afternoon.
He said the Taliban were digging trenches around Kandahar city which indicated they were not ready to give up and would fight against the US and opposition Pakhtoon forces.
Reports pouring in from across the border suggested that the US troops had landed in south of Kandahar and had not conducted any direct attack on Taliban positions. They were just helping the anti-Taliban forces led by former Kandahar governor Gul Agha Sherzai and Asmat Militia Commander Fida Mohammad Gul.
Agencies add: The US Marines have begun setting up road blocks in search of Taliban leaders and their prime target, Osama bin Laden.
"The situation is bad. The bombing was very heavy early this morning," said Saadullah, who took a taxi from Kandahar to Pakistan on Saturday.
Senior Taliban official Abdul Salam Zaeef said in Islamabad the militia would die fighting rather than be humiliated by the "forces of infidels". "We have decided to defend Kandahar to our last. We will not hand over Kandahar to anyone," Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador was quoted as saying by the AIP.
"Our leadership prefers death over humiliation. (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar has ordered everyone to fight and not bow before the forces of infidels," said Zaeef, who also claimed the warplane had been downed.
Key anti-Taliban Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai said his forces were 25kms northwest of Kandahar and Taliban leaders were indeed negotiating a handover of power. "He (Zaeef) can say that but some senior Taliban official contacted us today and we are negotiating," he said.
"I am closer to Kandahar, around 25 kilometres north-west of the city. Our advance has been absolutely peaceful and negotiations with Taliban officials in Kandahar are in progress."