Third Night of Afghanistan Attacks Follows Daytime Raid
The latest round of nighttime strikes are concentrating on the northern city of Herat and the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, the Associated Press reports.
Members of Afghanistan’s ruling militia told the AP Herat has been under attack since the first raids on Sunday, with bombings focusing on the city’s airport. A CNN report Sunday night said a command center at the airport had been struck by U.S. fire.
The daylight raids reportedly centered around Kandahar, the home of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Taliban soldiers are said to have responded with anti-aircraft fire.
“Air operations are continuing, and there won’t be obvious starts and stops,” Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today.
He said some of the U.S. planes involved in the strikes are sent with a specific target, while others are loaded with bombs and told to hunt for “targets of opportunity.”
Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef says Osama bin Laden — the prime suspect in last months attacks against the U.S. — is still alive in Afghanistan and repeated the Taliban’s refusal to hand him over to the U.S.
Zaeef told Reuters a missile slammed into a house once occupied by Omar during Monday’s nighttime strikes. Omar was not in the house at the time, he said. The AP reports that strike was the third time Omar’s house has been hit.
Meanwhile, the United Nations today confirmed the deaths of four security workers for a U.N. mine clearing program, killed in their office on the edge of Kabul.
The office was located near a radio transmission tower — a possible target of the U.S. strikes.
“It was assumed they were safe where they were,” Stephanie Bunker, a UN spokesperson, said. “Otherwise, they would have been relocated for sure.”
Appealing to the U.S., Bunker said, “People need to distinguish between combatants and those innocent civilians who do not bear arms.”
The four are the first independently confirmed civilian casualties since attacks began Sunday.
While strikes continue from the skies, U.S. Sen. John McCain told CNN the likely next step is “the insertion and extraction of [U.S.] ground troops.”
Yesterday, the Defense Secretary for Britain — the U.S.’s leading ally in the recent campaign — told reporters ground operations aren’t out of the question.
“As far as any ground operations are concerned, clearly we are preparing plans to allow us to look at that as an option,” British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said.
“But they are options,” Hoon said. “We have taken no decisions on a ground campaign. We have only just started the very first part of the military campaign.”