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Taliban Militia Takes Fighting To Air, Bombs Targets near Kabul

By John-Thor Dahlburg
Los Angeles Times
KABUL, Afghanistan

The Taliban Islamic militia took the war against its enemies to the skies Thursday, scrambling MiGs to attack positions north of Kabul. In one village, 20 civilians, mostly women and children, were reported killed by a Taliban bomb.

Fierce pounding from the Talibs' artillery, rocket batteries and Soviet-made tanks appeared to have repulsed the forces of Ahmad Shah Masood, the ousted Afghan government's defense chief, along two major roads north of the Afghan capital, and denied them the commanding heights overlooking Kabul airport.

The Talibs kept Kabul-based correspondents away from the battle line, but on the sere plain north of the airport, shepherds said the hard-line Muslim fighters had advanced overnight about a mile closer to Bagram air base, which is in the hands of Masood's Jamiat-i-Islami force.

"I have seen a lot of Taliban tanks and vehicles passing north on this road," shepherd Gul Muhammad said. He expressed an equal measure of disgust for the Taliban fighters, Masood and Abdel Rashid Dostum, a former general who controls six northern provinces and who concluded a defensive alliance with Masood against the Taliban on Oct. 11.

"All of them are destroying Afghanistan," the weather-beaten shepherd said.

In the afternoon, Taliban jets screamed off the runway at Kabul airport and kept the pressure up on Masood by bombing his positions in the hills north of the city.

In the village of Kalakon, about 12 miles of Kabul's outer limits, a bomb dropped by a Taliban fighter jet reportedly killed 20 people, mostly women and children. Many of the victims were buried when a wall was blown down by the bomb's blast. Villagers gathered to voice their outrage at the Taliban, which has vowed to bring peace and a true Islamic order to Afghanistan by disarming rival armed groups that have been locked in civil war since 1992.

On the main highway linking Kabul with the Salang tunnel and northern Afghanistan, tank gunners and a trunk-mounted rocket battery parked on a hillside at Hussein Kot joined in the pummeling of the former government's forces.