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US jets accidentally bomb allies

October 23, 2001


BAGRAM, Oct 22: United States fighter jets on Monday mistakenly bombed opposition posts during their third raid on Taliban frontlines north of the Afghan capital Kabul, witnesses said.

Four photographers were in an opposition post when two F-16’s screamed overhead.

They said they saw at least two bombs land near opposition posts and another on a Taliban-controlled area near Qalai Nasru, west of Bagram airbase and situated some 45 kilometres north of Kabul.

Opposition soldiers accompanying the photographers briefly fled their positions after the strikes, which came the day after Washington had called on the Northern Alliance to be more aggressive in fighting the Taliban.

“They asked us if we had a telephone to call the Americans and tell them they were making a mistake,” said Ron Haviv, a US national working for the Paris-based Agency VII.

The other photographers who witnessed the strike close up were Peter Blakely, a US national working for the Saba agency, Tyler Hicks, a US national with the New York Times and Moises Saman, a Spanish national working for Newsday.

They said they were around 75 metres from where one of the bombs hit a Northern Alliance post, one of a string of positions set up in a maze of mud walls and fields here.

“Maybe they have made a mistake,” explained a local commander, Sayed Mir Shah. “We received two bombs on our side, the others were on the Taliban.”

He said there were no casualties among the opposition troops.

Two fighter jets circled several times over the frontlines and were seen dropping three bombs at around 4:20 pm (11:50 GMT) as Taliban fighters responded with light anti-aircraft fire.

The first attack on the Taliban’s frontline positions defending the Afghan capital was late on October 16 and in the early hours of October 17, when a convoy of Taliban troops and a militia post were struck by three bombs.

The second raid was Sunday, when five bombs struck the Taliban’s lines.

The Taliban have concentrated thousands of troops north of Kabul, and witnesses have reported seeing convoys of additional militiamen travelling to the lines to evade US-led strikes on Kabul.

General Baba Jan, opposition commander at the Bagram airbase, said the strikes had yet to have any major effect on the Taliban line.

“America thinks that a few days of bombing will defeat the Taliban. We have been fighting for 23 years and we have yet to bring peace to Afghanistan,” he said.

No senior opposition officials were immediately available for comment after Monday’s apparently botched jet attack.

Around the same time as the strikes, a single plane flew over Kabul but dropped no bombs and the Taliban guns on the ground also remained quiet, witnesses said. The unidentified planes were the only scares reported on an otherwise quiet day for the war weary residents of the Afghan capital.—AFP