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Pentagon: Possible Taleban Plot to Poison Food Aid - 2001-10-24


The Pentagon says Afghanistan's Taleban rulers may be planning to poison captured food aid shipments and blame it on the United States.

Defense Department spokesman, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, told reporters today (Wednesday) U-S officials want the warning spread as quickly as possible in an effort to persuade the Taleban to reconsider. Admiral Stufflebeem also recommended the Afghan people take food aid packages only from what he called "reputable agencies" whenever possible.

Responding to a reporter's question, the Pentagon spokesman said Taleban fighters have proven to be tough warriors who have the advantage of working in a familiar environment. However, he added that the United States is prepared for however long it takes to bring down the Taleban. He also said the world needs to be patient and recognize the war on international terrorism will take time.

The admiral also confirmed earlier reports that Taleban troops are hiding among Afghanistan's civilian population in private homes, university dormitories and mosques. U-S officials say such activities increase the possibility of civilian casualties from air strikes. But the officials also say the Bush administration and its allies are doing everything possible to limit civilian casualties. U-S officials also strongly deny Taleban claims of more than a thousand civilian casualties from 18 days of air strikes.

Meanwhile, foreign aid workers have begun screening thousands of Afghan refugees who have been approved to enter a temporary refugee camp near the Pakistani town of Chaman. Pakistani and Taleban authorities have reached agreement to house many of the thousands still waiting to cross the border in camps inside Afghanistan run by the Taleban. U-N officials have criticized the agreement, saying the Taleban does not have the resources to do an adequate job.

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