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Published: Sunday, 10/7/2001

U.S. launches strikes against Taliban military, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said U.S. and British military action has begun in Afghanistan - forces are taking "targeted actions" against the terrorist network and Taliban military capabilities, he said.

"We will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes," Bush said from the White House Treaty Room as explosions rocked Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Bush said he had demanded Afghanistan's Taliban regime turn over Osama bin Laden, No. 1 suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but Taliban leaders refused. "Now the Taliban will pay a price."

Thunderous explosions and the rattle of anti-aircraft fire were heard today in the Afghan capital Kabul _ electricity was shut off throughout the city. The first explosions could be heard about 12:27 p.m. EDT.

Five large explosions shook the city, followed by the sounds of anti-aircraft fire. Power went off throughout the city almost immediately after the first of five thunderous blasts. There was no indication what caused the blasts, which appeared to have been in the southwest of the city.

Just hours earlier, senators close to the terrorism investigation advised the nation to be vigilant for more danger once military action began.

"When the president of the United States says time is running out, you'd better listen to him," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., referring to Bush's pointed warning a day earlier to Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

The White House quickly brushed aside a late offer from the Taliban to try suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, instead restating demands that include the turning over of bin Laden and the dismantling of terrorist camps.

"The president's demands are clear and non-negotiable," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

And Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, voiced doubts about whether the United States has much interest in the usual course of criminal justice when it comes to bin Laden.

"Taking out" bin Laden, leader of the al Qaida terrorist network, would be a significant step in the campaign against terrorism, he said.

Asked what that meant, Graham said, "That may mean capture but it probably means death."

Abdullah, the single-named spokesman for anti-Taliban northern alliance in Afghanistan had predicted U.S. military action would come "very soon." Asked how soon, he looked at his watch and asked, "What time is it now?" Events apparently proved him right.

Even while encouraging people to return to normal routines, officials in the administration and Congress have said Americans should be alert to the possibility of more attacks at home.

That advice was underscored by the senators as the pieces fell into place for U.S. action, with military forces amassing outside the country, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld back from a round of coalition-building and President Bush declaring Saturday: "Full warning has been given and time is running out."

Graham, on ABC's "This Week," predicted terrorists would use means other than the airline hijackings of Sept. 11 to create a "pervasive sense of fear."

"The way to do that is to attack us in as many different forms as possible," he said. "I believe that once we do start direct military engagement in Afghanistan, the threat level is likely to go up, because there will be a tendency for the terrorists to want to cause us to step back."

The senior Republican on the intelligence committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, agreed.

"I don't know when or where or how but you can just about believe that there are going to be more attacks," he said. "To lull the American people to sleep ... would be a terrible thing to do."

But as with most such warnings since Sept. 11, no detailed threats were mentioned. In the absence of specifics, Lott said on "Fox News Sunday," people cannot do much to protect themselves.

"You don't take stupid risks, and you put it in God's hands, and you go on with your life doing the best you can," he said.

The proposal made by the Taliban on Sunday, apparently in an attempt to head off an assault, was a variation on one made earlier.

This time, the Taliban asked for a formal allegation against bin Laden from the United States as a condition for detaining him and putting him on trial. The regime did not insist on having the evidence against him in advance, as it had earlier.

But that did not satisfy the U.S. demands.

Bush ignored shouted questions about the offer when he went to Emmitsburg, Md., on Sunday to participate in an annual memorial service for fallen firefighters.

"Our nation still mourns," he said.

"The courage and loss we saw in New York we've seen in every community that has laid a firefighter to rest." The nation lost 101 firefighters on the job last year and more than 300 in the attack that brought down the World Trade Center.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that the campaign against terrorism will be multifaceted and that conventional attacks, while likely a feature of the effort, will not be the main element. Commando operations have figured prominently in the plans.



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