United States and Britain Strike Afghanistan

7 as President George W. Bush warned that its ruling Taliban regime "will pay a price," for the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11.

Speaking from the White House in a live televised address Sunday, October 7, President Bush said that on his orders "the United States military has begun strikes against (suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden's) al Qaeda training camps" and "military installations of the Taliban regime."

CHRISTIANS TRAPPED

Twenty-four detained Christian aid workers, including eight Westerners, faced the prospect of spending their first night trapped in the U.S. led assault, as bombs or missiles fell on the Afghan Capital Kabul, reportedly near the Defence Ministry. The Christians of the organization Shelter Now have been in a Taliban prison since August 3, on charges of spreading the Gospel in this mainly Moslem nation.

Seconds after the U.S. led attacks began, residents said electrical power was lost throughout the capital. Reporters said that the Taliban's Radio Kabul stopped broadcasting, although it was not clear if the network had been hit.

Outside Kabul, reporters and rebels opposing the regime said the a main command center at the airport in the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual Capital, was also destroyed. In the eastern city of Jalalabad, the airport was also reported under attack, the Voice of America reported.

LIVING IN FEAR

The strikes came just two days after the father of 24-year old American prisoner Heather Mercer said his jailed daughter was "living in fear" that she may not be able to escape from possible military operations. John Mercer stressed his daughter was "very upset, very frightened" and "afraid that bombs will start falling on Kabul."

The military operations began only hours after US officials stressed their would be no negotiations with the Taliban which had offered to release Mercer and the other Westerners if America "stops its mass propaganda of military action against the Afghan people. "

President Bush told the nation that he ordered the strikes after the Taliban refused to meet American demands, including the turn over of suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and members of his al Qaeda network, as well as the release of Americans Mercer and her 29-year old co-worker Dayna Curry. "More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps, hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in (that) country," Bush said. "None of these demands were met. And now, the Taliban will pay a price."

BUSH URGES PRAYER

He added that the U.S. was joined in the operation "by our staunch friend, Great Britain. Other close friends, including Canada, Australia, Germany and France, have pledged forces as the operation unfolds," Bush stressed. Bush urged the nation to pray for the service men and women oversees and that "God may continue to bless America," in the war against terror.

Up to 6,000 people are presumed dead after hijackers crashed fuel-laden commercial airplanes into the Pentagon and each of the World Trade Center's twin towers on September 11. A fourth jet plunged into a Pennsylvania field after passengers tried to overpower the hijackers, according to investigators and relatives.

BIN LADEN'S BATTLE

Intelligence sources have linked the terrorist's raids to bin Laden's al Qaeda network. The Saudi exile almost admitted his direct involvement in a videotaped statement given to the Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera, in which he described the September 11 attacks as "giving them back what they deserve". He said the strikes were a reaction on the US support of Israel and sanctions against Iraq. Osama bin Laden stressed that the US military action was part of a campaign against Islam, "a battle of believers and non-believers."

In his speech, President Bush strongly denied this explanation of events, saying that the U.S. was "a friend of the nearly one billion" followers of Islam, but the enemy of terrorists. That opinion was shared in London by British Prime Minister Tony Blair who told his country that the military action would be "targeted against places we know to be involved in the al Qaeda network of terror or against the military apparatus of the Taliban."

TRAINING CAMPS TARGETED

The al Qaeda network is believed to have maintained training camps in Afghanistan for several years. Some of those camps were the target of a 1998 US strike ordered by then President Bill Clinton, following the bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed more than 200 people.

Legal analysts say Bin Laden faces criminal charges in the United States in connection with those bombings, and testimony in the trials of four men convicted of those attacks linked them to al Qaeda. "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," Blair said. He added the international coalition's efforts would not rest until its objectives were met "in full." Several other countries, including France and Germany also expressed their support for the ongoing military operations.

BRITAIN SUPPORTS STRIKES

Prime Minister Blair said the US had been granted use of facilities at Diego Garcia -- a British territory in the Indian Ocean which has extensive military facilities. He added that reconnaissance and other aircraft, and missile-firing submarines -- used in Sunday's attacks -- would take part in the military action. Military analysts said that at least some of the missiles appeared to have been fired from warships.

The United States began moving warships, aircraft and troops to southwest Asia in the weeks after the September 11 attacks. At the same time, U.S. diplomats worked to assemble a broad coalition of dozens of nations to support including its NATO allies, Russia, Japan and moderate Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Cable News Network reported.

Although both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair stressed that the war against terror was not against the Afghan people but "terrorists and those harboring them," many civilians reportedly fled their homes late Sunday, October 7, as the military operations intensified in this already war ravaged nation, with possible millions of refugees.

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