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Afghanistan: Second Night Of Attacks Under Way

Prague/Washington, 8 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S.-led military forces have started a second night of air strikes against targets in Afghanistan. Western media quotes sources as saying bombs were heard hitting targets near the Afghan capital of Kabul, and strikes were also made in the ruling Taliban's stronghold in Kandahar. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington that the United States has made progress toward eliminating Taliban-controlled air defense sites in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld said at a news conference in Washington today he believes the U.S. has made what he called "an impact" on Afghan military airfields. Rumsfeld added however that it is too early to determine with certainty whether the Taliban's command and control operation has been destroyed.

Air Force General Richard Myers said the strikes are continuing. He said the fresh bombardment was accompanied by a renewed air drop of humanitarian assistance.

EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana last night said the joint U.S.-British strikes had "the understanding of the European people. The reaction of the United States and some of the other countries has been a legitimate act in order to try to find those responsible for the terrible terrorist attack of 11th of September. It has the support of the European Union. It has the understanding of the European people."

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson has expressed the alliance's full support for operations in Afghanistan.

Robertson told reporters the NATO allies have reiterated their readiness to "provide assistance as required."

Ambassadors from the 19 NATO nations met today at alliance headquarters in Brussels to analyze the first night of military strikes against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. NATO as an organization is not directly involved in the attacks but last week NATO invoked its founding treaty, declaring the attacks on the U.S. an attack against all 19 members.

France said today it is ready to offer specific military support to the U.S.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis called the strikes a "just reward for terrorists" and their backers. Slovak President Rudolf Schuster voiced full support for the strikes, offering diplomatic, economic, and military assistance. Outgoing Estonian President Lennart Meri has also pledged his country's full support.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said Ukraine supported the joint U.S. -British operation but will not participate militarily. Central Asian republics today also voiced support for the U.S.-led air strikes against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorist network targets in Afghanistan.

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov reportedly offered to open his country's air space and possibly military bases for further U.S.-led strikes. But Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazariev told RFE/RL that there is no truth to reports that U.S. troops have already deployed in Tajikistan.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev today expressed his country's full backing for what he called "the international antiterrorist action." He said his country does not consider the strikes to be an attack on Islam or the Afghan people.

A government spokesman in Uzbekistan said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told officials in Tashkent last week about the timing of last night's strikes. At least 1,000 U.S. special forces ground troops have been deployed in Uzbekistan.

The Lebanese Information Ministry warned the strikes could spark hostile reactions in Arab and Muslim countries.

Iran has called the allied military action "unacceptable," and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein condemned the strikes as a violation of international law.

There were violent anti-U.S. protests in several cities in Pakistan. Protesters also rallied in Jakarta, in Indonesia, in Egypt, and in India's predominantly Muslim state of Kashmir.