Taliban claim US, British planes hit hospital in Herat
By Associated Press, 10/22/01
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The Taliban claimed Monday that U.S. and British planes struck a hospital in the western Afghan city of Herat, killing more than 100 people.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said he "did not have any specific information on a hospital, but I put as much credibility in this Taliban report as others that have been proven wrong." Britain denied its planes took part in any raid against Herat.
The Taliban also claimed they shot down two U.S. helicopters over the weekend, both in southern Kandahar. One crippled helicopter landed in neighboring Pakistan and the other in Afghanistan, they said.
The Pentagon said earlier that the Taliban had not downed any U.S. helicopters.
The claims were made by the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who said the dead at the Herat hospital included patients and hospital staff.
"Today a 100-bed hospital in Herat was bombed by American and British jets, and more than 100 were martyred," Zaeef said. "Patients and doctors were killed. ... It is clear that American planes are targeting the Afghan people to punish the Afghan nation for having chosen an Islamic government."
Zaeef also said that two health clinics in south central Urzgan province were hit by U.S. jets. He did not have a death toll for that alleged bombing.
Zaeef said the number of civilian casualties were being downgraded by Washington, which launched the bombing campaign Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in last month's terrorist attacks in the United States which killed more than 4,000 people.
Because of the U.S. tragedy, Zaeef said Washington in its statements "is implying that killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan is not such a big crime."
In London, Britain's Ministry of Defense dismissed the Taliban's claim that British fighters were involved in the alleged attack on the hospital
A defense spokesman said no British strike aircraft were involved in the operation in Afghanistan.
"The U.K. has aircraft that are assisting the Americans by refueling and engaged in reconnaissance, but we don't have any strike aircraft involved in this mission," said the spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A defiant Zaeef told reporters that the Taliban regime was united despite two weeks of bombing. The presence in Pakistan of a senior Taliban commander and government minister Jalaluddin Haqqani was not indicative of a split in the regime, said Zaeef.
"He was here only to meet the elders of Afghanistan who are living in Pakistan as refugees," he said. There is no move afoot to launch a breakaway movement.
He also said Afghans would resist any U.N. attempt to send in peacekeeping forces, including those from Muslim nations.
"American or non-American soldiers they are all the same. Any invaders will be attacked," he said.