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[] WPO 22.11.01: U.S. Takes Offensive in Information War With List of Enemy Crimes,

U.S. Takes Offensive in Information War With List of Enemy Crimes 

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2001; Page A38 

The White House today will launch a new round in its effort to counter anti-Western propaganda, issuing in Islamabad a 22-item catalogue of atrocities committed by al Qaeda and the Taliban.

After parrying claims made by the Taliban and al Qaeda since the Afghanistan conflict began, the White House, working with the British government, is issuing the document in a bid to take the offensive in the information battle with the United States' foes.

Of the 22 items, 10 are based on information supplied by the Defense Department and the State Department, some of which had not been previously released, administration officials said. The other items are assembled from American and British press accounts.

The Taliban's collapse in much of Afghanistan and the disarray in al Qaeda leadership have helped dilute some of the anti-American propaganda, particularly claims that the bombing campaign was targeting civilians and was opposed by Afghans and Muslims.

"Now we can move to the next phase, of highlighting Taliban atrocities," said Jim Wilkinson, who directs the 29-member Coalition Information Center in the White House. A similar office operates in London and a smaller one in Islamabad.

Among the abuses detailed in the new report are:

? The 1996 castration of the former Afghan president, whose body was dragged around the palace from a jeep.

? The 1998 massacre of 600 Uzbek villagers in western Afghanistan.

? The 1998 capture of Mazar-e Sharif, in which boys were executed, women and girls were raped, and shop owners and shoppers were killed in a rampage.

? The 2000 execution of prisoners of war.

? The 2001 bombing of a hospital and aid agency office in Yakaolang, after a massacre during which rockets were fired into a mosque where women, children and elderly men had taken shelter.

The list of atrocities was assembled from numerous accounts from media outlets and human rights groups, and it includes the beating of infants, killing of children and hanging of bodies from lampposts.

The catalogue is the latest product of the Coalition Information Center, assembled hastily during a time of widespread belief that American foes had the upper hand in the battle for the minds of moderate Muslims. The White House branch of the center now operates from the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with staff from the Defense, State, Justice and Treasury departments, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for International Development, and the British government.

Earlier, the center issued a lengthy refutation of Taliban propaganda, and it helped organize efforts by first lady Laura Bush and her British counterpart, Cherie Blair, to highlight Taliban oppression of women.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company 

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