Airstrikes continue after lull

Powerful explosions heard in Kabul after Muslim Sabbath

Most al-Qaida camps hit

Names added to list of organizations with frozen assets

October 13, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - After a one-day lull yesterday, U.S. airstrikes resumed early today in Afghanistan, as several warplanes streaked over Kabul and powerful explosions were heard in northern areas of the city, rattling buildings in the heart of the capital.

The new round of raids came after a slowdown in the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Taliban militia during the Muslim Sabbath yesterday. The resumption of attacks marked a sixth day of strikes against the Taliban regime, which has sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network.

In addition to hitting air defenses and other military targets, the U.S.-led bombing has damaged or destroyed nearly all the al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday. Other officials have said the camps were largely empty when they were struck this week.

"We have worked over a number, if not all, of their terrorist training camps," Rumsfeld said. "Those camps have been locations where terrorists that are today's threat across the globe have been trained. Threats clearly still exist."

Across the United States, authorities increased security after the FBI warned Thursday that new terrorist attacks could be launched against the nation during the next several days.

Yesterday, officials said the government has received additional credible threats of imminent terror attacks against Americans inside the United States or overseas, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The officials said the most credible of the intelligence reports remained general and did not represent a separate threat of additional attacks.

Commercial trucks came under the sharpest scrutiny yesterday after the FBI told local police agencies to be alert for truck bombs. Traffic clogged Maryland tunnels and bridges as officials asked truck drivers to show their licenses and cargo. In Washington, police sharply restricted truck traffic in a 40-block area around the Capitol.

The precautions are necessary, said Vice President Dick Cheney, who has worked for much of the week in a secret location because of heightened security concerns after the United States began the airstrikes in Afghanistan.

"We've got to be willing to tolerate a procedure that [creates] a 40-block area around the Capitol building that we're not going to let trucks into for the time being," Cheney said in an interview aired last night on PBS.

FBI and Justice Department officials refused yesterday to discuss the information that led to the FBI's public warning Thursday. Cheney described recent threats as varying - sometimes involving U.S. forces overseas or American embassies, sometimes targets inside the United States.

"I'm reluctant to say to the country or to the American people that a week from now or a month from now, you're going to be able to totally relax, no more problems, because I think it's going to take a long time," the vice president said.

Asked why he has remained out of public view, Cheney said it had become important for security reasons that he and President Bush avoid appearing together.

698 detained or arrested

The Justice Department said 698 people have been arrested or detained as part of the broadest criminal investigation in U.S. history. In Arizona, a federal grand jury charged a man with lying to investigators about knowing one of the suspected hijackers, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.

The man, Faisal M. al Salmi, had told investigators a week after the terrorist attacks that he had "no knowledge or association" with Hani Hanjour, a suspected hijacker who authorities believe crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, the indictment said.

In fact, the indictment charged, al Salmi knew Hanjour and had spoken with him on several occasions, including "at least one occasion when they spoke of a mutual interest in aviation."

Attorney General John Ashcroft said the indictment showed that federal prosecutors would "bring the full weight of the law upon those who try to impede or hinder the investigation of the terrorist acts of Sept. 11."

In his interview with PBS, Cheney raised the possibility that a man who has been in custody since August might have originally planned to join in the hijackings - a theory that federal investigators have been studying.

Cheney said four hijackers were aboard the flight that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, while the planes that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon each carried a team of five. He raised the prospect that a fifth man was supposed to be on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. "We think we may have that individual in custody, but we don't know for sure," Cheney said. "It's one of the individuals who were arrested up in Minnesota ... in August."

Cheney did not name the person. Privately, though, federal authorities have said they are trying to determine whether a man who is in custody, Zacarias Moussaoui, might have been part of the original hijacking team.

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