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Taliban: U.S. 'thirsty for bloodshed'

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan has accused the United States of "lying to the world" by denying that it is targeting Afghan civilians in its raids over Afghanistan.

Speaking at what has become a daily briefing in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef said that the U.S.-led airstrikes had killed scores of civilians.

"This is the gift of America to the defenseless people of Afghanistan," he said.

"America is thirsty for more bloodshed in Afghanistan."

Military officials in the U.S. deny deliberately targeting civilians and say they are saddened by any such casualties.

In the latest strikes the Taliban ambassador said that American bombs hit a village near the eastern city of Jalalabad, destroying a mosque and killing 100 people.

While these figures cannot be independently confirmed, Zaeef added that more than 170 Afghan civilians had been killed since the U.S. bombing began on Sunday.


The Pentagon has said that casualty figures cited by the Taliban should be taken with a "grain of salt."

On Wednesday a spokesman denied the United States was targeting civilians but did admit "there will be unintended damage," saying it was unavoidable that some civilians will be killed.

With U.S. air strikes intensifying -- Afghanistan's capital Thursday was pounded in the fifth and possibly the heaviest day of airstrikes yet -- speculation is mounting that the use of ground troops may not be far off.

The southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar came under its most intense attack yet, with 30 explosions over two hours triggering panic among civilians, a CNN source reported.

Streams of refugees have fled the city and are heading for Pakistan, the source said.

Many were on foot carrying their possessions on their backs, on carts or on donkeys.

Responding to speculation that U.S. special operations forces were ready to enter Afghanistan in the coming days, Zaeef said: "there will start the real war, not now."


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