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US fighter planes ‘begin’ sorties in Pak airspace

Islamabad, October 6

US F-18 fighter aircraft have begun sorties in the air corridors over Pakistan airspace, media reports said today.

US air force jets carried out surprise sorties on October 4 using the air corridor provided by Pakistan, Pakistan Observer said. The use of air corridor by US planes created panic” in the Pakistan air force, which has sent its own F-16 to provide security cover to Pakistan’s “vital” installations, it said, quoting official sources.

“Later, it transpired that US fighters were carrying out reconnaissance missions in the allowed air corridor. Even during the early hours yesterday US jets carried out many sorties from its carrier on Afghan borders near Peshawar,” it said. The report, however, was not clear whether the US jets went on reconnaissance mission into Afghanistan or remained airborne in Pakistan airspace. Pakistan officials were not immediately available to comment on the newspaper’s report. “Pakistan has also notified “no-flying zone” to US authorities in charge of its air fleet in the region,” the report said. It said Pakistan had agreed to provide three forward airbases at Shebaz in Jacobabad, Sumungli in Quetta and Skardu in northern areas.

“The US aircraft may not even use these bases but they will be made available to them for any possible landing, refuelling and meeting any emergency,” it said, adding that logistic support could mean setting up monitoring, command, control and radar systems at the forward bases. PTI

Taliban open fire on aircraft

Kabul, October 6

Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on at least one plane high in the sky over the Afghan capital, Kabul, today, and a Defence Ministry official said the army was trying to shoot down an unidentified aircraft.

Firing was intense for about 15 minutes from anti-aircraft batteries around the city and was directed at two planes flying high over the city, an eyewitness said. One plane disappeared at high speed, the second was seen circling in the clear skies over the war-shattered capital. At least one surface-to-air missile was fired at the aircraft as it circled above the city.

“A plane is circling at high altitude and we are trying to shoot it down,” a Defence Ministry official said, adding that he did not know the country of origin of the aircraft. The plane was an unmanned aircraft used for reconnaissance to spot Taliban air defence positions, said an official on condition of anonymity. Reuters

Taliban ‘danced’ after WTC attacks

Golbahar, October 6

Taliban fighters danced with joy when they heard hijacked planes had smashed into the World Trade Center, and boasted they would withstand any US attack, a deserter from the Afghan ruling militia said today. The 23-year-old fighter, who defected 10 days ago across the frontline North of Kabul to troops of the opposition Northern Alliance, said Taliban fighters believed that Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attacks, and had vowed to stand and wait for US strikes.

“After those attacks on the USA, the Taliban were so happy. They all said: “You see, Laden has struck at America. If anybody comes here to attack us, we will defeat them’,’’ he said, sitting in a room filled with Alliance fighters. The man, who gave his name as Khan Jan, is a member of the Tajik ethnic minority that has mainly been opposed to the Pashtun Taliban.

He said he had been forcibly conscripted by the Islamic militia four months ago at the start of the Taliban’s late summer offensive. He was giving one of the first accounts of conditions on the Taliban side of the front since hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon on September 11.

“In the evening, when we were listening to the radio, we heard (about the strikes on) ‘Voice of Shariat’. And all my friends in the room, they became happy, they were laughing when they heard it on the radio he said. Some of the Taliban even expressed their joy by dancing steps of the Atan, a Pashtun traditional folk dance. The Taliban generally forbid dancing in public as un-Islamic. Reuters

-- Swissrose (, October 07, 2001

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