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Afghanistan: U.S. Forces Launch Second Round Of Strikes

U.S. forces resumed air strikes last night against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan and the Taliban-controlled military. The U.S. says that while it is too early to make an overall assessment, the Pentagon believes the operation has damaged Afghanistan's military capabilities.

Washington, 9 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States last night launched a second round of nighttime air strikes on Afghanistan as part of its war on international terrorism. The ruling Taliban says daylight air attacks are continuing today.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that progress has been made toward eliminating air defense sites controlled by Afghanistan's Taliban militia. But Rumsfeld added that it is too early to determine with certainty whether the Taliban's command-and-control operation has been destroyed.

Last night's attacks involved 15 U.S. warplanes, as well as naval forces. The Pentagon said that among the targets struck were early-warning radar installations, Taliban ground forces, military command sites, and suspected terrorist training camps of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization.

The U.S. says bin Laden is the mastermind behind the 11 September terrorist attacks against the U.S. that killed an estimated 5,500 people.

The Taliban says that about 20 people were killed in the nighttime air attacks, but that figure cannot be independently confirmed. Unconfirmed reports also say four people were killed in today's raids on the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Rumsfeld says every care is being taken to avoid hitting civilians: "Every target was a military target. The (Taliban) reports indicating that there were attacks on Kabul are incorrect. The attacks were on the military targets surrounding the city."

The U.S. says last night's attacks were accompanied by another air drop of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

At the White House yesterday, President George W. Bush said the best defense against global terrorism is a global campaign against it.

"Together, we will confront the threat of terrorism. We will take strong precautions aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, and prepare to respond effectively if they might come again."

The U.S. has declined to provide a timetable for the air strikes. But British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon -- who is in Moscow today -- said the air campaign is likely to last "a matter of days rather than weeks." British forces have joined the U.S. in striking Afghan military targets across the country.

In another development, the United States formally notified the UN Security Council that counter-terrorism attacks may be extended beyond Afghanistan. A letter from the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, says the air strikes are justified by the United Nations charter. Article 51 of the charter says states have the right of self-defense following armed attacks. It says the U.S. reserves the right to strike at terrorist cells beyond Afghanistan. It did not identify any of the potential new targets.

In the southeastern U.S. state of Florida, meanwhile, authorities are continuing an investigation into two anthrax bacteria cases. Health officials say the bacteria that killed a man last week has been detected in a co-worker and on a computer keyboard in the newspaper office where both men worked.

Dr. John Agwunobi, Florida's secretary of health, said: "For public health reasons, in order to conduct further public health environmental testing and to pursue our investigation, we have secured the AMI building [where both men worked]. Anthrax is not a contagious disease."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told a Washington news conference that U.S. law-enforcement officials are pursuing the matter but that he does not have enough information to know whether the anthrax cases could be related to terrorism.

Ashcroft also said federal law enforcement has been put on the highest possible alert and that U.S. borders also have been strengthened. He said the nation's nuclear power plants have been put on the highest alert to protect them against any attacks.