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Sources Say 8 Killed in Afghanistan

August 21, 1998

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ U.S. missiles targeting terrorists killed at least eight people in Afghanistan, including five Pakistanis training to fight in India, sources said Friday.

The Pakistani news agency NNI, quoting the Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen group, said the five Pakistanis were killed in a strike on a training camp near Khost, about 90 miles south of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Maulvi Sadre Azam, the Taliban deputy governor of Nangarhar province, said three other people were killed in strikes near Jalalabad, about 60 miles east of Kabul.

There was no immediate confirmation of the reports. NNI and Sadre Azam had few details.

President Clinton ordered the attacks on sites in Sudan and Afghanistan on Thursday, saying he had established links between the targets and those responsible for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 257 people Aug. 7.

In Washington, U.S. officials said cruise missiles targeted six terrorism-related sites at the Zhawar Kili Al-Badr base near Khost. The officials said the missiles were launched from ships in the Persian Gulf.

They did not mention strikes near Jalalabad.

Sadre Azam said the camp struck near Jalalabad was a major training camp during the Afghan war against Soviet invaders in the 1980s, and later was used as a training camp for the Taliban religious militia that has fought its way to control of most of Afghanistan.

Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, formally known as Harkat-ul-Ansar, was included last year on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist groups for its support of an insurrection by militant Muslims in Indian-held Kashmir.

Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen told NNI its fighters were in Afghanistan training to fight in India. Indian-held Kashmir is the only predominately Muslim state in majority-Hindu India, and Indian officials have accused the government in neighboring, Islamic Pakistan of supporting groups like Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen. Pakistan denies the charges.

Clinton said the facilities attacked were linked to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire he called the ``pre-eminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today.″

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers said bin Laden was unhurt by the attacks. He ``is safe and no damage has been done to any of his companions,″ said Mullah Abdullah, a spokesman at Taliban headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar.

Abdullah did not say where bin Laden was, or whether he had been at the targeted sites at the time of the attacks. The government also had no reaction to the U.S. offensive.

Bin Laden, who has been living in Afghanistan with the permission of the hard-line Taliban, is a Saudi millionaire who has been outspoken in his criticism of the United States, calling on Muslims to attack U.S. interests around the world.

Bin Laden was scheduled to have addressed a religious meeting in Khost on Thursday before the attacks, said a government source in Pakistan, speaking on condition of anonymity and citing Pakistani intelligence agents.

Kabul was quiet late Thursday. Word of the U.S. attacks came near midnight, when most of the city was asleep.

A day before, the United States had warned non-Muslim foreign aid workers to leave Afghanistan, saying they had learned of ``credible threats″ against them. A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Pakistan had refused to elaborate on the threats.

Speculation about a possible U.S. attack had been fueled by the evacuation a day earlier of all but essential embassy staff in Pakistan. The attacks could spark angry, potentially violent reactions in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz refused comment after the attacks were announced, saying he had been awakened by a call from The Associated Press.

Although the Pakistani government is a U.S. ally, a vocal minority paints the United States as an enemy of Islam. The Pakistani government is likely to face domestic political pressure if it is learned that it facilitated an attack on bin Laden.

Update hourly