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Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Rumsfeld: Taliban leadership targeted in bombing campaign

October 11, 2001

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— U.S. airstrikes are targeting leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban government that is harboring them in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday.

"They represent a significant part" of the military command and control facilities that U.S. bombs and missiles are striking, he told reporters.

Rumsfeld was asked whether U.S. intelligence has determined that Osama bin Laden remains in hiding in Afghanistan.

"The probability is that he is," Rumsfeld replied, adding that even if he were captured or killed, the war on terrorism would continue because it involves other groups of terrorists in other parts of the world.

Amid conflicting reports on whether the United States has been using 5,000-pound "bunker busters" bombs in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said those and a wide variety of other munitions were being used.

He was asked specifically about the GBU-28, a 5,000-pound bomb developed during the Gulf War in 1991 to penetrate deeply buried targets like command and control bunkers.

The full range of precision-guided munitions have been used "including those" he said.

As President Bush honored the victims of terror at a Pentagon memorial service one month after the attacks in New York and Washington, American forces a half-world away turned their sights on the Taliban's military and its armor.

Meanwhile, an Air Force sergeant was killed in a heavy equipment accident in the northern Arabian peninsula became the first death in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Master Sgt. Evander Earl Andrews was assigned to the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. He was originally from Maine, officials at the base said, but no other details were immediately available.

Heavy explosions rocked the Kabul airport Thursday afternoon in the first daylight raids on the capital. Earlier in the day, civilians fled the southern Afghan city of Kandahar as raids there targeted a compound where followers of Osama bin Laden had lived.

In neighboring Pakistan, government officials said U.S. military personnel arrived on the ground and Americans were granted use of several Pakistani air bases in connection with the confrontation over bin Laden.

More than 15 U.S. military aircraft, including C-130 transport planes, arrived over the past two days at a base at Jacobabad, 300 miles northeast of the port city of Karachi.

The U.S. airstrikes on Afghanistan are focusing more on leaders of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and the Taliban regime that shields them.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said Wednesday that two adult male relatives of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were killed in bombing strikes on the leader's home in Kandahar.

Officials said U.S. warplanes also would begin dropping cluster munitions anti-personnel bombs that dispense smaller bomblets on mobile targets such as armored vehicles and troop convoys.

The attacks are meant to help persuade Taliban commanders to switch sides and either join the anti-Taliban northern alliance or fight their former comrades on their own.

In southern and eastern portions of Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence operatives likely will try to incite a revolt among those ethnic Pashtun leaders who lost power when the Taliban took over, said Michael Vickers, a retired Green Beret and CIA officer in South Asia who's now with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank. Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and are the dominant ethnicity among the Taliban.

About 1,000 members of the Army's 10th Mountain Division are at an air base in Uzbekistan, about 90 miles from the former Soviet republic's border with Afghanistan. Although Uzbek leaders have said the soldiers at the base would only participate in humanitarian or search-and-rescue operations, the base also could be a staging area for combat raids.

The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier also could provide at least a jumping-off point for special forces, since it left Japan for the region without its full complement of fighter planes. That clears the decks for use by the Black Hawk or Pave Low helicopters that carry special forces on their missions.

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