U.S. lashes back

Missiles, bombs pound targets in Afghanistan

Britain joins attack on terrorist camps, Taliban locations

`We will not falter'

War On Terrorism

Military Response

October 08, 2001|By David L. Greene and Tom Bowman | David L. Greene and Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - U.S. and British forces pounded targets in Afghanistan with bombs and cruise missiles yesterday as the military phase of a U.S.-led drive against terrorism began, nearly a month after America suffered the deadliest attack in its history.

President Bush said that he had ordered the strikes to curtail the use of Afghanistan as a base of operation for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network - the prime suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that killed more than 5,000 people.

The U.S.-led firepower, which lasted through the Afghan night, was also intended to diminish the Taliban's military capability, the president said. He declared that the regime must "pay a price" for defying American demands to hand over bin Laden and shut down terrorist training bases.

Yesterday's military action, Bush said, was the opening salvo in a "sustained, comprehensive and relentless" drive to root out terrorists and bring them to justice. U.S. officials did not specify how long the current offensive would last other than to say it would continue.

"We will not waver, we will not tire," the president said. "We will not falter, and we will not fail."

Bush pointedly stressed that the military strikes were steering clear of Afghan civilians. U.S. military cargo planes were scheduled last night to drop supplies of food and medicine over the country as part of a humanitarian aid effort the president announced last week.

Foreign policy specialists have cautioned that support among such critical U.S. allies as Pakistan could quickly erode if the United States is seen as waging war on innocent Muslims.

"The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith," Bush said.

"The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name."

The president addressed the nation from the White House at 1 p.m., shortly after a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles and bombs were unleashed halfway around the world, lighting up the nighttime Afghan skies. Pentagon officials said that it was too early to know how many targets were hit, and that no American casualties had been reported as of last night.

No word on bin Laden

There was no indication that bin Laden had been killed or injured in the attacks.

Bush portrayed the strikes as being backed by an alliance of nations across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, an international coalition he has been working to build since the terrorist attacks nearly four weeks ago.

Besides Britain, the president said, Canada, Australia, Germany and France have pledged the use of their military forces as the operation unfolds. More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia, he said, are permitting the use of their airspace or airfields or have shared intelligence.

"We are supported," Bush said, "by the collective will of the world."

Helping the American president underscore that point, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain spoke in London less than an hour after Bush's statement, calling the military offensive "an international effort."

"None of the leaders involved in this action want war," Blair said. "None of our nations want it. We are a peaceful people. But we know that sometimes, to safeguard peace, we have to fight."

Noting that thousands of innocent people - including hundreds of British citizens - were killed when two hijacked jetliners destroyed the World Trade Center, Blair added: "This cause is just."

Bin Laden, the suspected mastermind in the terrorist assaults, delivered a chilling response yesterday in a videotaped segment that was aired by an Arab television station. It was apparently recorded before yesterday's attacks.

Speaking from what appeared to be a cave, bin Laden said that "America is full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that."

"I swear to God," bin Laden said, "that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine. God has blessed a group of vanguard Muslims to destroy America. And may God bless them and allot them a supreme place in heaven."

The Islamic militant did not explicitly claim credit for last month's terrorist attacks. But he expressed satisfaction with the result.

"When the sword falls on the United States, they cry for their children and they cry for their people," bin Laden said in the videotape. "The least you can say about these people is that they are sinners. They have helped evil triumph over good."

Taking precautions

Bush sought yesterday to calm U.S. citizens who are nervous about the prospect of further terrorist attacks that might be waged against the United States to avenge yesterday's military strikes in Afghanistan.

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