Saturday, November 3, 2001
S u n d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  4,  2 0 0 1
Monday, November 5, 2001

U.S. Jets Pound Taliban Front Lines in Northern Afghanistan

Excerpts from an article detailing heavy U.S. airstikes in northern Afghanistan and Northern Alliance preparations to advance on Taleban positions:

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U.S. bombers launched a fierce attack Sunday on Taliban frontline positions in northeast Afghanistan in the heaviest day of bombing since U.S. planes began targeting the area a week ago.

The strikes near the village of Dasht-i-qala were coordinated by the Northern Alliance commanders and resulted in Taliban casualties, according to the alliance's vice defense minister.

The alliance minister said Taliban radio was crackling with calls for cars and trucks to move the wounded. He cited Taliban radio as his source for news that a Taliban Arab commander named Tabuk was killed.

The bombing began before dawn and lasted for about seven hours. CNN's Satinder Bindra reported the attacks were so intense, it was difficult to count the number of explosions.

Villagers rushed out of their homes to watch U.S. planes roar overhead as thunderous explosions sent huge plumes of black smoke over the front lines where Taliban forces have dug holes and tunnels into the hillside.

... The war in Afghanistan is not a battle between Christians and Muslims, despite Osama bin Laden's efforts to portray it as religious conflict, Egyptian Foreign Minster Ahmad Maher said Sunday. Instead, he said, the fight is between bin Laden and the world. Maher's response followed bin Laden's assertion that foreign ministers of 10 Arab nations betrayed Islam by not quitting the United Nations to protest the military campaign in Afghanistan. ...

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B52s 'Turn Enemy Into Frightened Beasts'

Excerpt from article describing the impact B52 'stick bombing' is having on Taliban troops:

Two U.S. Air Force B-52's fly close
together during a bombing raid
on Taliban positions, 11/04/01

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An Afghan reporter, newly arrived in Peshawar, describes events in and around Kabul to Philip Smucker:

In the village of Hussein Khil three ambulances stopped to water the living and the dying. From the rear hatches of the black vehicles, patients moaned for help.

Puddles of blood spread out across the dirt as male nurses, who had already used their turbans to make tourniquets, sprinted back to the vehicles to splash the faces of their mutilated charges.

Four weeks into the bombing campaign, the Taliban and al-Qa'eda were taking a terrible maiming. The B52 raids have turned bunkers into craters and brave men into frightened beasts.

On the front lines, Mullah Abdul Hadi, 23, glanced out at the bombers that looked like giant black hawks from his vantage point in a trench. Wrapped around his forehead, a white bandanna read: "And the help is from Allah, and the victory is near."

As he reached for his walkie-talkie, he began speaking bitterly to a senior commander. "If this heavy bombing and this weather keeps up, it's bound to be a horrible winter," he said. Even as he spoke, another B52 raid rained 25 bombs on to a bunker just 100 yards from his position. The soil shuddered and a dusty mushroom cloud took shape.

The only respite from the terror was deep inside the bunkers that represent Kabul's last line of defence. Inside one, Taliban and Arab fighters crowded around a tape recorder to listen to the incantations of the Koran. The words were only just audible above the blasts from the falling bombs.

Not far away, the wards of Wazir Akhbar Khan Hospital, Kabul's largest, were packed with the wounded and dying. Disinfectant reeked from a room packed with 25 patients, many of them sprawled on the floor attached to plastic packs of blood.

A young man, barely 18, and spreadeagled on the floor, had already taken on the pale yellow pallor of death as he screamed: "I just want to meet my mother one more time. Help me, Allah, for I will die and not see her to tell her I love her." The young fighter, who had been hit in the side by shrapnel, died moments later.

Even as a nurse raced to check the dead man's pulse, a cold rain whipped through the window on to the faces of the patients. Several of them begged for blankets to warm them.

The only boost for the Taliban's flagging morale in Kabul was the arrival of a few thousand Pakistani militants, many of them from Kashmiri jihad groups that also have past experience of fighting in Afghanistan.

The militants arrived in lorries equipped with loudspeakers blaring Pathan tribal war songs as well as inspiring Koranic verses. "This is the great jihad we have all been waiting for," said a retired officer with 22 years experience in Pakistan's army as a special operations expert. ...

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Meteor Caused Middle East Catastrophe?

Excerpt from article describing the evidence regarding a meteor impact which may have caused a Middle East catastrophe of "biblical proportions" in ancient times ...

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Scientists have found the first evidence that a devastating meteor impact in the Middle East might have triggered the mysterious collapse of civilisations more than 4,000 years ago.

Satellite images of southern Iraq
have revealed a two-mile-wide
impact crater caused by a meteor

Studies of satellite images of southern Iraq have revealed a two-mile-wide circular depression which scientists say bears all the hallmarks of an impact crater. If confirmed, it would point to the Middle East being struck by a meteor with the violence equivalent to hundreds of nuclear bombs.

Today's crater lies on what would have been shallow sea 4,000 years ago, and any impact would have caused devastating fires and flooding.

The catastrophic effect of these could explain the mystery of why so many early cultures went into sudden decline around 2300 BC.

They include the demise of the Akkad culture of central Iraq, with its mysterious semi-mythological emperor Sargon; the end of the fifth dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom, following the building of the Great Pyramids and the sudden disappearance of hundreds of early settlements in the Holy Land.

Until now, archaeologists have put forward a host of separate explanations for these events, from local wars to environmental changes. Recently, some astronomers have suggested that meteor impacts could explain such historical mysteries.

The crater's faint outline was found by Dr Sharad Master, a geologist at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, on satellite images of the Al 'Amarah region, about 10 miles north-west of the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates and home of the Marsh Arabs.

"It was a purely accidental discovery," Dr Master told The Telegraph last week. "I was reading a magazine article about the canal-building projects of Saddam Hussein, and there was a photograph showing lots of formations - one of which was very, very circular."

Detailed analysis of other satellite images taken since the mid-1980s showed that for many years the crater contained a small lake.

The draining of the region, as part of Saddam's campaign against the Marsh Arabs, has since caused the lake to recede, revealing a ring-like ridge inside the larger bowl-like depression - a classic feature of meteor impact craters.

... A date of around 2300 BC for the impact may also cast new light on the legend of Gilgamesh, dating from the same period. The legend talks of "the Seven Judges of Hell", who raised their torches, lighting the land with flame, and a storm that turned day into night, "smashed the land like a cup", and flooded the area.

... craters recently found in Argentina date from around the same period - suggesting that the Earth may have been hit by a shower of large meteors at about the same time.

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Best of CNN Videos (October 29 to November 4)

Pop-up windows for some of the best of recent CNN web videos (Note - CNN adds videos frequently - see their web sites for links to all of their video selections):

Pakistani Christians fear attacks
(2:30) After recent killings during worship, Pakistani Christians fear additional attacks by Taliban supporters. CNN's Amanda Kible reports (November 4)
Northern Alliance announces 1st gains
(2:30) The Northern Alliance announces their first gains against the Taliban. CNN's Satinder Bindra is there (November 3)
U.S. targeting Mazar-e-sharif
(2:18) The bombing campaign continues as the U.S. hits taliban targets near the strategic city of Mazar-e-sharif. CNN's Jamie Mcintyre reports (November 2)
Afghan rebels building up
(1:52) Afghanistan's Northern Alliance is equipping fresh troops along its front line with the Taliban. CNN's Chris Burns reports (November 1)
U.S. targets Taliban strongholds
(2:03) Pentagon officials say that the U.S. carpet bombed Taliban front-line positions. CNN Jamie McIntyre reports (November 1)
Airline security debate continues
(2:42) CNN's Kathleen Koch reports on what U.S. officials and industry leaders say remains to be done to tighten airline security (October 31)
Refugees stuck between borders
(2:36) CNN's Amanda Kibel reports on the plight of refugees trying to leave Afghanistan (October 31)
Paper no barrier to anthrax spores
(1:52) CNN's Sanjay Gupta demonstrates how anthrax spores can seep through the pores of ordinary paper envelopes (October 30)
Cockpit security draws new technology
(2:27) CNN's Kathleen Koch checks out some of the latest efforts to secure airliner cockpits (October 30)
Bombing shifts to Taliban front line
(2:39) CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports the Pentagon admits U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, pinpointing Taliban targets (October 30)
Hijack probe focuses on New Jersey
(3:40) CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports investigators of the September 11 attack keep coming back to a New Jersey township (October 29)

Tajiks, Uzbeks Have a Liberal Version of Islam

Excerpt from article describing the Islamic position of the Tajiks and Uzbeks, a position which is opposed to the Islamic extremism of the Taliban and its supporters ...

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There must be an Islam other than what is commonly supposed. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are Muslim countries that border Afghanistan, but their governments as well as their people support the war against the Taliban.

The most straightforward reason is that the Tajiks and the Uzbeks are trying to protect their way of life.

This would be threatened if the Taliban succeeded in extending their frontiers, which they have vowed to do in order to set up an Islamic Emirate.

The 100 per cent Muslim populace of Northern Afghanistan, which this correspondent visited last week, actively roots for US success so that the way may be cleared for a US-aided ground assault against the Taliban.

... In the Tajik capital, a housemaid shudders at the thought of a Taliban victory.

Although she is more traditionally attired, women in trendy short skirts can be seen in Dushanbe, and no one is frightened of entering bars. Many men wear beards but few, if any, rush to pray five times a day.

In Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, everything goes. Pork is freely sold and eaten.

A night life exists too. Women in smart western clothes move around freely. The veil is nowhere to be seen. At the popular level, there is some wariness about US political intentions, but everyone wants the Taliban to be defeated and ousted from power.

Try as one might, there are no mosques one can see in Tashkent outside the medieval quarter, or in Dushanbe for that matter.

On the 250km long drive from the Tajik capital to the Afghan border, passing through smaller towns and roadside rural settlements, only a couple of structures are revealed that look like mosques. ...

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  • Hindustan Times [link inactive]

Testing 1-2-3 (Islam Questions Originally Posted 2/26/99)

February 26, 1999, I posted some questions regarding the Islam faith, in the alt.atheism and alt.religion.islam newsgroups. The post is repeated below for reference and reflection ...

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From the tenets of Islamic faith (with questions from an Atheist with a Christian-raised perspective):

-God is creator of the whole universe.

-Absolute unity and power resides in God.

-God is just and merciful.

-Mohammed was the last of the great prophets. Jewish prophets and Jesus were his predecessors.

Question: How do Muslims reconcile the fundamental Christian beliefs with their own. Being a prophet is one thing, but claiming to be the one and only son of God (with a requirement for belief in said fact or eternal damnation) is quite another thing. Jesus - merely a prophet? Is the New Testament of the Christian Bible full of lies and deceit? Does the Koran include an accurate account of the true Jesus and the true Jewish
history? What's up with this?

-The Koran forbids the representation of human and animal figures. It denounces the lending of money with an interest charge for its use, games of chance, and the consumption of alcohol and pork.

Question: What's with this anti-interest thing? Why would someone loan someone else money without making anything off of it? By this tenet, the entire world economy would be driven by a 0% investment scheme. How the heck would one build up a pension or retirement fund with such a scheme in place? Is the Koran suggesting we work our asses off 'til death?

No statues of heroes from the past? Give me a break.

No gambling, drinking, or bacon. Sounds like totally man-made myth stuff to me.

-Life on earth is a test and only a preparation for life to come.

Question: Testing 1-2-3, why the heck would God place creatures on earth for a test? If God is so capricious, silent, and invisible to conduct a rigid test such as that present on earth, what would compel one to want to spend eternity with such a deity?

-The good and obedient will go to heaven.

Question: What defines good and obedient?

-Pride is a cardinal sin.

Question: Why? If you do something worthwhile, shouldn't you take pride in it? Is that tenet suggesting one just does stuff in a blase and impersonal manner?

-Profession of faith: There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.

Question: When/where/how does the Christian God metamorphose into the Islamic Allah? Why were all of these Christian and Jewish prophets led into one line of reasoning totally displaced by Mohammed? Did anyone clue the Jews and Christians in as to the whys and wherefores of this Islamic awakening?
What's the deal?

-Prayer: Five times a day.

Question: Why? Five times a day seems arbitrary, why not six or four or ten or ...... what's up with the five a day keeps the doctor away program?

-Zakat: Giving a portion of one's wealth to the needy.

Question: How wealthy do you have to be to qualify for the Zakat? What portion are we talking here?

-Fasting: Between dawn and dusk during Ramadan.

Question: What's up with this fasting thing? Is it healthy? If you don't do it, do you lose out on the eternal ticket to heavenly bliss? Is there an eternal ticket to heavenly bliss?

-The Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca.

Question: Why Mecca? Do modern Muslims consider a distributed scheme more worthwhile, with franchises in Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, and Monrovia worthy of consideration? Should humans continue to explore the moons and planets of our solar system, is bowing towards planet earth OK or is a sojourn back to planet earth (Mecca) required?

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