The United States and Great Britain today launched a massive air and missile strike on targets in Afghanistan, responding to the terrorist attacks that left thousands of people dead or missing in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The first explosions were reported around the capital, Kabul, shortly after nightfall local time (about 12:30 p.m. ET) and power and telephone service was quickly knocked out in parts of the city, leaving them lit only by the light of Taliban anti-aircraft fire and the blasts from incoming bombs and missiles.
There was a break in the bombing for several hours, but at around 2:30 a.m. Monday local time bombs and missiles again began falling on Kabul and other cities around Afghanistan.
The Taliban defense ministry in Kabul was reportedly hit in the early moments of the attack.
Other strikes in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where the Taliban regime headquarters many operations, reportedly destroyed the airport and much of their central command structures. An airbase in the northwestern city of Herat was also reportedly destroyed.
Specific types of targets included: early warning radars, airfields with aircraft, a single tank formation with troops, command and control facilities, training camps, and fixed surface-to-air missile sites.
"On my orders, the U.S. military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," President Bush said. "These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime."
The forces used in the bombing included 15 land-based bombers and 25 carrier-based strike aircraft, as well as at least 50 Tomahawk missiles launched from U.S. and British submarines. U.S. officials said there were no reports of any U.S. aircraft being lost in the raids.
Shortly after Bush addressed the American public, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a televised address and confirmed that missiles were launched from a British submarine.
"We have set the objectives to eradicate Osama bin Laden's network of terror and to take action against the Taliban regime that is sponsoring him," he said.
Bush said several other nations, including Canada, Australia, Germany and France, have pledged forces to the operation.
"More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and across Asia have granted air transit or landing rights. Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world," said Bush.
Sources at the Pentagon said the bombing attack targeted Taliban anti-aircraft and radar installations, possibly clearing the way for strikes against other targets, and for humanitarian aid to be airlifted in to needy Afghans.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today mistakenly told reporters that planes began dropping 37,500 rations of food and medicine about two hours after the bombing started; that is expected to happen later.
The ruling Taliban organization in Afghanistan has been harboring indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden, and elements of his organization al Qaeda. U.S. officials blame him and al Qaeda for the Sept. 11 attacks.
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