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Bill Delaney: Taliban repeat atrocity accusations

CNN's Bill Delaney
CNN's Bill Delaney  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) Massive explosions were reported Wednesday along front lines between the Taliban and Northern Alliance as U.S. jets pounded Taliban troop positions.

The fourth week of coalition airstrikes is under way against the Taliban government in Afghanistan, aimed at flushing out Osama bin Laden, wanted in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Meanwhile, the Taliban held a news conference Wednesday in Islamabad, once again accusing the United States of killing civilians in the attacks.

CNN's Bill Delaney is based in Islamabad and filed the following report:

DELANEY: About an hour ago, the Taliban ambassador [Abdul Salam Zaeef] and deputy ambassador to Pakistan [Suhail Shaheen] concluded their press conference, again accusing the U.S.-led coalition that is bombing Afghanistan of genocide, saying the bombing is only uniting Afghans, not driving them apart.

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They say 1,500 civilians have been killed in the bombing campaign; eight were killed Tuesday in attacks in Kabul and Kandahar, they said, on bridges, electric stations and on the front line north of Kabul.

The Taliban representatives did address one issue that has been brought up by the U.S.-led coalition. They denied that Taliban anti-aircraft fired at over-flights has been returning to the ground and causing some of those civilian casualties:

SHAHEEN: Americans are throwing cluster bombs on the people of Afghanistan made in the form of food boxes, which American planes had been dropping from the air earlier. Some people have already fallen victim to these bombs

DELANEY: Now importantly on the diplomatic front, the Taliban ambassador said that a UN. special representative for Afghanistan, who is in Islamabad, had asked representatives of the Taliban for a meeting Saturday. They said they went to their authorities in Kabul to ask whether they had permission to do so. That permission was denied by officials in Kabul, who said the United Nations has not shown enough concern over what they called "atrocities" in Afghanistan.

Also related to the bombing in Afghanistan, we have the latest remarks from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on whether the bombing should continue during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins around mid-November. Musharraf is traveling to Washington late next week to meet with President Bush. He said he would bring that subject up but not press on it.

MUSHARRAF: One is double-minded about it certainly. Even I would be double-minded. One has to achieve the objectives of the military operation. But my only hope is that it is achieved before Ramadan. It is a possibility. But if that doesn't happen, I will discuss the matter with him definitely. But I won't be pressing him as such.

DELANEY: Musharraf is expected to leave late next week for Washington. Around that time, a nationwide series of road blockages is planned by a coalition of religious and political dissenting parties in Pakistan.

CNN: The ambassador to Pakistan has also taken the opportunity to address the issue of aid getting to people inside of Afghanistan. What did he say?

DELANEY: Yes, he did raise the issue of food shortages as a result of the fourth week of the bombing campaign. While criticizing the United Nations on the one hand, saying they haven't expressed enough concern for the ongoing -- what he called -- atrocities, at the same time he called for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to become more involved to make sure that food gets to Afghans as now in the next few weeks the severe Afghan winter begins in that country. So he both criticized the United Nations and asked for its help, particularly with food.


• U.N. presses Taliban over refugee efforts - October 31, 2001

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