US forcess strike Afghan cities to hunt terrorists
Exactly four weeks after the terrorist attack on the American cities leaving nearly 6,000 civilian dead the United States and British forces hit Afghan cities to hunt main suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, with stealth bombers and cruise missiles.
Day light broke over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, after hours of heavy bombing by US led forces. The strike by US forces came several weeks after President George Bushís deadline to hand over Osama bin Laden, passed without any positive response by the Taliban government.
The first strikes began about 8:45 p.m. local time Sunday and targeted the Talibanís air defense installations, defense ministry, airport-based command centres, airfields, electrical grids and other energy production facilities.
About 15 land-based bombers, 25 strike aircrafts and U.S. and British ships and submarines took part in the strike against terrorist targets, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The arsenal included B-2 stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri equipped with satellite-guided munitions. They were joined by B-1 and B-52 bombers from the British base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the Pentagon said. The latter aircraft use both precision-guided munitions and more conventional "dumb bombs."
The regimeís command system and radar system at the Kandahar airport was destroyed, admitted a senior Taliban official. However, bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mullah Omar survived the attacks, said Taliban ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef talking to journalists.
"Bright flashes of light, one after another" hit the region for six hours, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. local time reports CNN. The opposition Northern Alliance also fired rockets at Taliban front lines.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and the leaders of the Northern Alliance were in formed beforehand while striking Afghan cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad by the US led forces.
"From the feedback which we have had so far, the targets have been hit accurately in Kabul, Kandahar and especially in Mazar-e-Sharif," said Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the North Allianceís foreign minister.
The strikes in Afghanistan could continue for several days as the United States and Britain try to soften Taliban air defenses and damage key military infrastructure.
President Bush said in a national address the military action was "carefully targeted," and said its aim was to "cut the military capability of the Taliban regime." Bush said the action was taken after the Taliban refused to meet several non-negotiable American demands.
"More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the al-Qaeda network, and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in your country," President Bush said.
"As none of these demands was met, and now, the Taliban will pay a price," he added.
Power went off throughout Kabul almost immediately after the first of the thunderous blasts, which appeared to have been in the southwest of the city. The southwestern part of Kabul includes the Darulaman Palace, an ancient royal residence, and the Balahisar Fort, an old Mogul style installation
The first wave struck the Kandahar airport, destroying radar facilities and the control tower. The strike also targeted hundreds of housing units built for members of bin Ladenís al-Qaida terror movement.
The second wave, which appeared to be more precisely targeted, struck the Taliban national headquarters in downtown Kandahar, the sources said. They said smoke was seen billowing from Mullah Omarís high-walled compound about nine miles outside the city.
Afghanistanís former King Mohammad Zaher Shah said he recognised the "legitimate right" of the United States to launch the attacks. Zaher Shah, who has been working to select a new government for Afghanistan, said his paramount objective was the safety and dignity of Afghans and the integrity of the country.
"Unfortunately, the unpatriotic position of the Taliban and their sponsors has again inflicted pain, sorrow and destruction on the people of Afghanistan," observed the king issuing a statement.
The city was quiet, with no sign of panic. Kabulís 1 million people are inured to war after more than two decades of relentless fighting that has destroyed most of the city.
In their first official reaction, the Taliban called the assault a terrorist attack and vowed that America "will never achieve its goal." The statement was issued by Zaeef, the ambassador to Pakistan. Later, Taliban Deputy Defense Minister Mullah Noor Ali said "the people of Afghanistan will resist. They will never accept the rule of infidels."
Also Sunday, Qatarís Al-Jazeera television carried a tape which showed bin Laden praising God for the Sept. 11 attacks and saying the United States "was hit by God in one of its softest spots."
The tape, released after the U.S. and British strikes began, showed bin Laden dressed in fatigues and an Afghan headdress. It appeared to be daylight, which would mean that the tape was made before the nighttime attack Sunday.
"America is full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that,íí bin Laden said on the tape.
Not all in Pakistan were behind the strikes, however. The influential and Taliban-sympathetic Afghan Defense Council, based in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, issued a call for "jihad," or holy war. The council comprises more than 30 religious and militant groups.
"It is the duty of every Muslim to support their brothers in this critical hour," central leader Riaz Durana said.
Earlier Sunday, the Taliban had made an 11th-hour appeal to prevent U.S. attacks: They offered to detain bin Laden and try him under Islamic law if the United States made a formal request. The Bush administration quickly rejected the Taliban proposal.
Washington has also rejected Afghanistanís attempt to use eight jailed foreign aid workers as bargaining chips to pressure the United States to halt its planned anti-terrorist offensive. The eight aid workers in Kabul - four Germans, two Americans and two Australians - were arrested in August on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.
The Taliban are estimated to have some 40,000 fighters - around a quarter of them from bin Ladenís organisation - and many of those are involved in fighting the alliance.