Taliban claim U.S. bombing damages hospital

Thursday, November 1, 2001

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Heavy bombers went into action over northern Afghanistan Wednesday, pounding frontline Taliban positions in an increase in U.S. support for opposition forces in the field.

In this southern stronghold, Taliban authorities took the first foreign journalists allowed into the city to the ruins of a hospital they claimed was damaged in U.S. military strikes Wednesday. There was no independent confirmation of the claim, which said 15 people died and 25 were wounded.

Low-flying American jets and what appeared to be high-flying bombers struck Taliban positions about 30 miles north of Kabul, raising huge clouds of smoke as they unleashed their bombs and missiles.

Opposition fighters said it appeared that Taliban field headquarters as well as other targets were being hit.

A Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday that B-52 bombers were in use against Taliban lines.

In the southern city of Kandahar, bombs began falling before dawn Wednesday. Foreign journalists brought to this Taliban stronghold on a media tour watched from a rooftop as detonations lit up the sky.

Later, the 29 journalists -- including two from Associated Press Television News -- were taken by the Taliban to the bomb-shattered ruins of a hospital operated by the Afghan Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross.

In other developments:

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will travel to Moscow this weekend to meet Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, then visit leaders of several countries neighboring Afghanistan.

The respected Jane's Defense Weekly reported that Gen. Tommy Franks, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, met Tuesday in Tajikistan with the opposition commander, Gen. Mohammad Fahim.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said the Defense Department plans to call up more than the 50,000 troops initially thought necessary for the campaign in Afghanistan and homeland defense. President Bush has approved activating up to 1 million troops.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a new immigration crackdown, designating 46 terrorist groups whose members and supporters will be banned from entering the country.

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