Washington, 7 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. and Britain tonight began allied strikes against the forces of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan. American Defense Department officials (unnamed) told the AP that U.S. and British warships in the Arabian Sea are firing missiles at air defense installations, military communications sites, and training camps operated by Al-Qaeda, bin Laden's alleged terrorist network.
The attacks were the first military response to the 11 September terrorist attacks against New York and Washington. In an address today from the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush said the campaign against international terrorism would be long, but successful.
"By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we'll make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans. Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice."
As he has in the past, Bush also addressed the concerns of some Muslims that the campaign will be a war against Islam. He said 40 countries, some of them Islamic, have joined in the war on international terror, and that they represent what he called "the collective will of the world."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters minutes after the bombings began that the U.S. has "opened another front" in its war on terrorism.
Residents of Kabul say they heard loud explosions and anti-aircraft fire in the Afghan capital tonight. Explosions were also heard in the southern city of Kandahar, where Taliban officials have reported that a command center at the airport in that city has been destroyed. Western news agencies quote residents as saying electricity supplies were cut throughout both cities. Several other installations belong to the ruling Taliban were hit across Afghanistan.
Bin Laden said in a prerecorded videotape released today that his Al-Qaeda network is ready for a "confrontation" with the United States.
It wasn't clear when the videotape was made. In the video, bin Laden is pictured outside of a cave during daylight hours. The bombing raids began in the evening.
Bin Laden praised the September terror attacks on New York and Washington but did not claim responsibility for them.
The Taliban ambassador to Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said today that bin Laden and the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, had survived today's U.S.-led strikes.
Salam Zaeef called today's U.S.-led strikes against Afghanistan a "terrorist" act. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quotes Zaeef as saying the ruling Taliban militia will not hand over bin Laden to the U.S. He says the Taliban will fight to the last breath.
He is quoted as saying the Taliban "tried hard" to find a solution to the problem, but he said America had chosen the path of what he called "power and arrogance."
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says relief rations containing food and medicines are now being dropped from aircraft in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld made the announcement today while responding to questions about the progress of U.S. and British military operations in Afghanistan against what he said are terrorist installations.
Rumsfeld provided little detail, but he said more than 37,000 such rations are being dropped from aircraft. He said the rations are being dropped in remote areas to prevent them from being confiscated by the ruling Taliban.