Military Action Intensifies on Twelfth Day of Strikes
A London-based group, the Islamic Observation Center, reported that Abu Baseer al-Masri, a top aide of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization was killed during a U.S. strike Sunday.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed that this report may be true and added, “Do I know it of certain knowledge? No, I’ve not been on the ground. But it would be a good thing for the world.”
At Thursday’s press briefing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers said the twelfth day of attacks was delivered by carrier-based jets, AC-130 turboprop planes, and several F-15E strike Eagle jets.
Myers added that many took off from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of four aircraft carriers in the region, though he did not specify the origination of the F-15s.
The Pentagon reported that the Air Force EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft began radio broadcasts in the Afghan languages Dari and Pashtu.
“You will be attacked by land, sea, and air…Resistance is futile,” the broadcast warns. “Our goals will be achieved, if not willingly, then by overwhelming force.”
Other radio messages say, “You have only one choice: Surrender now and we will give you a second chance. We will let you live. If you surrender, no harm will come to you.”
The broadcast gave very explicit directions on how to surrender: “Approach United States forces with your hands in the air. Sling your weapon across your back, muzzle towards the ground. Remove your magazine and expel any rounds. Doing this is your only chance of survival.”
Gen. Myers said the U.S. military campaign has “made progress in destroying or degrading the Taliban infrastructure in setting the conditions for future operations.”
Myers said U.S. jets targeted al-Qaida and Taliban terrorist camps, ground forces, airfields, logistics and military facilities in and around Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad.
Before dawn Thursday, the U.S. warplanes began intensified raids over Kabul, the Afghan capital. Targets included a Taliban tank unit and the presidential palace.
The Taliban Information Ministry reported that the strikes were also aimed at the Kabul’s Shash Tarak district, near Quialazaman Khan, where the Taliban Defense Ministry building, garrisons, a tank unit, and an abandoned U.S. embassy are located.
Local sources say two residential homes in the Quialazaman Khan neighborhood were destroyed in the bombing and that a sixteen-year old girl was among the dead pulled out of the rubble. These reports have not been independently confirmed.
U.S. jets also attacked targets in Kandahar, a southern stronghold of the Taliban. Taliban officials say there have been hundreds of civilian casualties.
“The number of casualties ranges between 600 and 900 dead, because we consider those who are missing under the rubble among the dead,” Senior Taliban spokesperson Abdul Hai Mutmaen told “Al-Jazeera” via video-phone.
Taliban totals have not been verified by external sources.
Al-Qaida’s top military chief, Abu Hafs al-Masri, responded to the U.S. attacks, saying, “The calculations of the crusade coalition were very mistaken when it thought it could wage a war on Afghanistan, achieving victory swiftly.”
“America will only be certain about its mistaken calculations after its soldiers are dragged in Afghanistan as they were in Somalia,” he told the Islamic Observation Center, referring to the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers in Somalia during the 1993 peacekeeping mission.
Taliban officials concede that the Northern Alliance, comprised mostly of minority ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks, has gained in key battles over Mazar-e-Sharif, a northern Afghan city.
President Bush on Wednesday alluded to the idea that the U.S. may support anti-Taliban forces, such as the Northern Alliance, when he announced the U.S. airstrikes were “paving the way for friendly troops on the ground.”
Rumsfeld today hinted that the U.S. could help opposition forces with “food and ammunition,” but did not provide any further details.
The AP reported that the Pentagon deployed an unmanned, armed spy plane for combat missions in Afghanistan. The RQ-1 Predator is a low-flying drone that is loaded with Hellfire antitank missiles. The Pentagon did not confirm or deny the report.