November 2, 2001
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US carries out fierce bombing runs
ahead of winter

K J M Varma in Islamabad

In one of the fiercest bombing runs till date, the United States on Friday targeted Taleban frontlines north of Kabul using B-52 bombers even as a fresh batch of heavily armed Pakistani tribesmen crossed into Afghanistan to support the militia.

The air strikes by B-52s began overnight and intensified in the morning in areas near the Bagram airbase in northern Afghanistan.

The bombers also stepped up attacks on caves and tunnels in eastern Afghanistan and officials said that the hunt for Osama bin Laden had narrowed to a few such complexes.

ABC television quoted the officials as saying that the US had information about Laden's mountain hideouts and was keeping a 24-hour surveillance on them.

In another development, the Taleban claimed to have captured 25 supporters of an aide of former Afghan king Zaheer Shah and threatened to execute them.

They said the followers of former Afghan deputy foreign minister Hamid Karzai were captured in a confrontation in Deharwad in Uruzgan province overnight and a hunt was on to apprehend their leader.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoting Taleban sources said that execution orders had been issued for important members of the detained group.

Four supporters of Karzai were said to have been killed and several others wounded in the clash with the Taleban.

Meanwhile, a day after 1,000 pro-Taleban Pakistani supporters crossed into Afghanistan, another horde of 1,200 armed tribesmen entered the country under the command of Malik Jan Mohammed from the border town of Bajaur in the North West Frontier Province.

Encouraged by the intensified bombings, opposition Northern Alliance forces moved more troops and artilleries to the front and said they were ready for the next phase of their fight against the Taleban.

"All that remains is the order for push forward," commander of the Northern Alliance General Mohammad Fahim said.

In Washington, Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld said that the US was still in the "very very early stages" of the military campaign and was making "measurable progress in our stated goals".

Rumsfeld also said the US was urgently working to land more warriors in Afghanistan to intensify pressure on the militia.

"We have a number of teams cocked and ready to go," he said, adding the extra troops were crucial to improve the bombing campaign

In Pakistan, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal made a surprise visit, his second in a week, and held talks with President Pervez Musharraf on the Afghanistan situation.

He delivered a personal message from Saudi King Fahd to Musharraf.

A foreign office statement said that the Saudi foreign minister reiterated his country's full support to Musharraf.


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