Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Deaths in Kabul as Warplanes Strike; Bombardment Sparks Mass Exodus as Panic Spreads

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Deaths in Kabul as Warplanes Strike; Bombardment Sparks Mass Exodus as Panic Spreads

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK SAWER

"SEVERAL deaths" were reported in Afghanistan today following the first waves of the US and British bombardment against the Taliban and terrorist targets.

As dawn broke and the overnight curfew was lifted, terrified residents began emerging from their homes to survey the damage.

There were conflicting reports of casualties and with limited independent sources such reports have to be treated with care. While the Taliban's Voice of Shariat radio denied any casualties, the Afghan Islamic Press news agency had earlier reported 22 people killed in Kabul with others injured.

At this stage it is not clear if the casualties are civilians or Taliban fighters. One Kabul resident told Reuters news agency: "There are several deaths. People have seen some bodies from the attacks."

Taliban officials said the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, had escaped unscathed, as had Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Asked by reporters if the two men were still alive, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said: "Thanks be to God."

He told a news conference in Islamabad the raids were a "horrendous terrorist attack" on Afghanistan, adding: "Civilians died. It was a very huge attack."

However, in a morale-boosting broadcast at 7.30am local time, Voice of Shariat radio said: "There has not been any human or material damage yet."

Kabul's residents - who have already seen their city devastated by two decades of war - described a night of terror. One shopkeeper reportedly said: "We don't want a continuation of this condition anymore. Please tell the Americans to stop it." Many of those who had not already fled the city in anticipation of air strikes in retaliation for the 11 September outrages are now planning to escape as best they can. …

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