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Tuesday, October 09, 2001, updated at 23:08(GMT+8)

35 Civilians Killed, Injured in Strikes, Policy Change Ruled out: Taliban

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia said Tuesday that 35 civilians were killed or injured during the latest round of US-led airstrikes, according to reports reaching here from Kabul.

Condemning the attacks as acts of "open terrorism," a Taliban high official said thirty-five civilians had been confirmed to have died or been injured.

He said the US-led airstrikes killed these civilians, but adding there were no casualties among the Taliban armed forces.

The strikes were the second wave of US-led military action which began on Sunday night against the Taliban for protecting Osama bin Laden, the primary suspect of September 11 terrorist attacks on US.

Earlier Tuesday Taliban chief representative to Pakistan Abdul Salem Zaeef told a press conference here that tens of civilians had been killed in Afghan cities. "This is open terrorism," he said.

Overnight Monday a cruise missile from US airstrikes crashed into a UN-backed demining office in eastern Kabul, killing four civilians and damaging equipment.

The four deaths were confirmed by the United Nations. A spokesman from UN called for distinguishing "between combatants and innocent civilians who do not bear arms."

The US-led airstrikes against Afghanistan began on Sunday night over its refusal to hand over alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden. Beginning Tuesday, the coalition launched daylight strikes.

Zaeef reiterated ruling Taliban's willingness to consider extraditing Osama bin Laden -- but only if it was shown concrete evidence.

He accused the United States of trying to create a "surrogate government" in Afghanistan so that it could control political setups and natural resources in the region.

Zaeef Rules Out Change of Taliban Policy

Taliban chief representative in Islamabad Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef on Tuesday ruled out any possibility to change their policy on the issue of Osama bin Laden.

In an interview with CNN, Zaeef said the Taliban policy was based on the holy Islamic law which is hundreds years old.

He reiterated that the Osama bin Laden could not be handed over to the United States without concrete evidence.

The Taliban envoy confirmed that Osama bin Laden, the prime target of the military attacks by the U.S.-led coalition, was still alive and living in the mountains for security.

"He is alive. He is not in a location known to people," Zaeef said.

To a question, the Taliban envoy said communications inside Afghanistan were still continuing after the severe air attacks by the United States and Britain, adding there was no problem of communication among Islamabad, Kandahar and the Afghan capital of Kabul.

He said the new attacks by the U.S. failed to cause any casualties to the Taliban troops.

Earlier, the Taliban envoy said at a press conference here that the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had escaped U.S.- led air strikes around his house in the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday.

"He is alive ... There were strikes around the house, but he had vacated it," Zaeef said.

Zaeef said that since the launching of military strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, dozens of civilians were killed and houses of residents were destroyed in various major Afghan cities including Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad.

In This Section

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban said Tuesday that tens of civilians had been killed in the US-led airstrikes, according to reports from Kabul.

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