U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says pro-Taleban fighters defending their Afghan stronghold city of Kandahar will be killed if they do not surrender.
Speaking on U-S television today (Sunday), Mr. Rumsfeld said thousands of al-Qaida terrorists and their Taleban sponsors are holed up in the besieged southern city.
The secretary said he hoped the Taleban would lay down their arms and save the city from destruction. But he said he did not expect the foreign-born al-Qaida fighters to heed the U-S surrender call.
Mr. Rumsfeld also warned that further casualties within the U-S-led coalition could be expected, and said reinforcements will probably be needed to liberate the city.
As Mr. Rumsfeld spoke, waves of U-S warplanes continued to bomb Kandahar, in some of the heaviest aerial attacks yet against the last Taleban stronghold.
Earlier today, ethnic Pashtun military commanders said their forces are advancing toward the airport just south of Kandahar, but are waiting for air strikes to subside before launching an all-out ground assault. Commanders reported stiff resistance by Taleban and foreign fighters.
Pashtun fighters have been deployed at key points near Kandahar, as more than one thousand U-S Marines patrol nearby desert areas to prevent al-Qaida terrorists and their Taleban sponsors from escaping into Pakistan. U-S officials say no U-S ground troops have yet engaged in any fighting.
Meanwhile, overnight U-S bombing raids against suspected terrorist hideouts around Jalalabad triggered reports that U-S bombs flattened villages and killed dozens of civilians. But U-S military say they have videotaped evidence showing the bombs avoided civilians and struck their intended targets.