Powell warns of war through Ramadan, 18 civilians killed


Fresh air raids have been reported over Afghanistan's capital of Kabul tonight. Washington today warned its military action could last through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as witnesses reported at least 18 civilians were killed in US bombing today.

US jets bombed Taliban frontlines near Kabul and pounded positions east of Mazari-Sharif for the second day running as an Afghan opposition spokesman said US military advisors were deployed with Northern Alliance forces on the frontlines.

The attacks came on the 15th day of the US President Mr George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

In Washington, US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell hinted military operations could continue during Ramadan, which begins in mid-November, saying it would be in the interest of the US and its allies to see the situation "resolved" before winter.

Asked about an easing or a halt of hostilities during the holy fasting month, Powell said: "We have to be respectful of that very, very significant religious period but at the same time we also have to make sure we pursue our campaign."

An AFP reporter who visited a ravaged residential area of Kabul after today's raids heard residents say at least 10 civilians died, nine of them members of one family killed by stray ordnance as they sat down to breakfast.

It was the highest civilian toll independently confirmed by foreign media since the October 7 start of the US air campaign on Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesman said 18 civilians died in Kabul today and another "50 to 60" during the past three days of raids on Herat, in the west.

A Taliban cabinet meeting today ordered extra weapons and ammunition distributed to troops countrywide after yesterday's first US commando raids in the Kandahar area, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency reported.

A Taliban official also reported today that two Alliance commanders and three soldiers were hanged in a public execution in Mazar-i-Sharif for spying.

The men were hanged in different squares in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, according to Taliban Education Minister.

Elsewhere a senior Afghan opposition figure familiar with bin Laden predicted today that air strikes and commando operations would not suffice to find the Saudi-born extremist.