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US launches fresh strikes against Afghanistan

F-18 Hornets prepare for take off from the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean Keystone

United States forces launched a second wave of strikes against Afghanistan on Monday night in retaliation for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11.

This content was published on October 9, 2001 - 08:01

US planes dropped bombs on the Afghan capital, Kabul. Two of the bombs were believed to have landed on the airport, and two on a hill in the city where the main television antennae stands, said an eyewitness.

The Afghan Islamic Press also reported that the northern cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz were also struck.

The attacks follow a series of strikes on Sunday, when US and British forces hammered targets across the country with cruise missiles, bombers and strike aircraft.

Witnesses said the power supply in Kabul was cut immediately after the first wave of attacks, plunging the city into darkness for a second night. It appeared the power had been switched off by ruling Taliban officials.

US defence officials were quoted as saying that the strikes were designed to knock out air defence missiles, fuel depots and airfields, and that some raids were also planned against Taliban troop concentrations.

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday's attacks appeared to have been successful, and he rejected reports from the Taliban that there had been non-military targets in Kabul.

Britain, which took part in the raids, said some of the camps were apparently empty. But authorities maintained that hitting them had deprived Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden's al Queda network of some of its bases.

An estimated eight people were killed by strikes on Sunday, according to the Taliban's Deputy Health Minister, Mohammad Abbas.

Sunday's strikes led to widespread protests and calls for jihad, or holy war, in some Muslim countries, notably Pakistan and Indonesia, although the US's allies said they were firmly behind the military action.

In the western Pakistani city of Quetta, thousands of protesters torched an office of the United Nations Children's Fund and other buildings.

US warns other countries

At the UN, US Ambassador John Negroponte told the 15-nation Security Council that measures to fight terrorism might extend beyond Afghanistan.

"We may find that our self-defense requires further actions with respect to other organisations and other states," said Negroponte.

But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said action would be limited to Afghanistan.

"The agreement at the moment is that (strikes) are confined to Afghanistan. That is where the problem is and that is the military action in which we are involved," he said.

Bush tightens homeland security

US President George W Bush formally appointed the first-ever US homeland security chief on Monday, as he sought to reassure Americans fearful of renewed terrorist attacks.

Tom Ridge, a former Pennsylvania Governor, was chosen to fill the Cabinet-level post to prevent terrorism. Ridge faces the monumental task getting over 40 agencies, including the FBI, CIA and dozens of local authorities, to cooperate with one another and heed his command.

Bush also signed an executive order establishing Ridge's Office for Homeland Security, a small office based in the White House.

Meanwhile, the FBI asked law enforcement agencies across the country to operate at the highest possible state of alert for "any act of terrorism or violence" domestically.

Humanitarian aid

Many humanitarian officials have warned that the military assault on the Taliban will worsen already widespread hunger in Afghanistan, with the UN food agency saying it had halted all deliveries of aid inside the country following the US-led attacks.

The US hoped to make up some of the shortfall with airdrops of food. The first of these flights were termed a success, dropping 37,500 food packages into remote parts of the country

The aid packages are part of a $320 million humanitarian effort for displaced Afghan refugees announced by Bush.

swissinfo with agencies

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