Taliban mounts propaganda offensive

Regime claims 100 dead in hospital attack and to have found parts from a 'downed' US helicopter
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The Independent Online

The Taliban mounted a propaganda offensive today claiming that US planes had hit a hospital in the western town of Herat, killing more than 100 people, and that they had discovered parts from a 'downed' helicopter.

Pictures from Qatar's al-Jazeera TV network showed what experts believed was the nosewheel of a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter, which Taliban fighters said they had found near the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar.

Some of the parts showed that it had been manufactured by Boeing and bore markings from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said the dead at the Herat hospital included patients and hospital staff. He gave no further details.

The Taliban also claimed that the US had used chemical weapons insiode Afghanistan, a charge swiftly denied by defence sources. The Pentagon also denied reports at the weekend that it had lost a helicopter.

The Taliban said two US helicopters had been sent to collect bodies and wreckage from the downed aircraft.