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24 October 2001

Defense Dept. Says Taliban May Attempt to Poison Afghan Food Aid

(Taliban militia have been hiding in civilian buildings) (430)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States has learned that the Taliban may
attempt to poison humanitarian food aid being distributed to civilians
in Afghanistan, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman says.
Navy Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, a deputy director of operations
for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Pentagon briefing October
24 that intelligence reports indicate the "Taliban might intend to
poison humanitarian foodstuffs" and try to blame the United States.
"The report that [the United States] would do that is categorically
false," Stufflebeem said. "We would never poison any foodstuffs. We
are humane people. We want to provide humanitarian assistance to those
in need."
He said two C-17 air cargo missions were flown October 23, dropping
approximately 34,000 humanitarian daily rations. To date, the United
States has air-dropped 785,000 humanitarian daily rations (HDR)
packets to starving, displaced Afghan civilians since the coalition
military campaign began October 7, he said. Humanitarian food aid,
much of it paid for by the United States, has also been transported
into Afghanistan overland by trucks, he said.
Stufflebeem said the United States was disclosing this information now
to inform the Afghans that if food aid comes from the United States
"it will not be tainted. If it comes from Taliban control, they
[Afghans] must be careful."
Stufflebeem also said the Taliban militia have been seeking out
civilian buildings, houses and facilities in which to hide from
U.S.-led coalition air strikes and potential raids from special
operations forces.
Refugees have been describing in interviews how Taliban forces are
"moving into neighborhoods, staying in people's houses, putting their
troops into university dormitories, or using religious mosques to hide
their vehicles," he said.
Stufflebeem said coalition air strikes continued October 23 against
al-Qaida and Taliban militia forces in the field and on targets of
opportunity in zones near Mazar-i-Sharif, the Shomali Plains near
Kabul, Kunduz and Herat.
"We hit five planned target areas, which included: terrorist camps and
forces; Taliban command and control; Taliban forces, both afield as
well as those in garrison; and ... armor, vehicle maintenance and
storage facilities," he said.
The coalition used 90 strike aircraft, 75 from aircraft carriers, 10
long-range bombers, and the remainder were land-based tactical
aircraft, including AC-130 Specter gunships, he said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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