Misguided Missiles Kill 13, Strike Residences

KABUL, Afghanistan?American airstrikes meant to punish the Taliban spilled over Sunday into residential neighborhoods of the Afghan capital, killing 13 civilians?the second time in as many days that missiles have accidentally hit homes and killed residents.

Later Sunday, U.S. jets were back over the skies of the beleaguered Afghan capital, and strong explosions could be heard in the direction of the main road from Kabul to the opposition-controlled Bagram air base.

Weeping families buried their dead hours after the morning bombardment, apparently aimed at Taliban targets to the north and east of Kabul. “I have lost all my family. I am finished,” said a sobbing woman in the Qali Hotair neighborhood on Kabul’s northern edge.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesmen had no immediate comment on the latest strikes and civilian casualties involved. It has stressed repeatedly that civilians are never deliberately targeted.

Three weeks after the U.S. led air assault against Afghanistan began, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed confidence the allies would prevail. However, his foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the war could drag on “indefinitely” and that the coalition was considering a pause during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins around Nov. 17.

In neighboring Pakistan, where the government has had to work to keep a lid on pro Taliban unrest, there was growing concern over civilian casualties.

“We feel the military action should possibly be short and targeted in order to avoid civilian casualties,” Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said after meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Pakistan’s government has allied itself with the United States in the confrontation over Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In a token of that cooperation, Pakistani officials said Sunday they had turned over to U.S. officials a man wanted in connection with another bin Laden-linked attack?the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. The handover of the suspect, a Yemeni microbiology student, was the first known arrest outside Yemen in connection with the Cole attack.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, at least 16 Christian worshippers were killed in the southern town of Behawalpur when attackers suspected of belonging to a fundamentalist Muslim group sprayed the church with gunfire.

It was not known if the attack was related to the U.S. air campaign. But the parish priest, Rev. Rocus Patras, suggested it was linked to tensions, saying, “Whenever something happens with America, they attack Christian churches.”

Pakistan’s main radical Islamic party vowed to step up the challenge to Musharraf, saying it and other religious groups would meet Monday to plan a 10-day protest in the capital to topple the president.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami, said the protest would involve a march into Islamabad and a sit-in.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, hundreds of armed pro-Taliban Pakistanis seized a remote northern town Sunday demanding that the government stop supporting the U.S.-led strikes, witnesses said. The rebels, armed with rocket launchers, Kalashnikov assault rifles, handmade guns and swords, took over most government offices in Chilas about 200 miles northeast of Peshawar.