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Posted: 10/12/2001 11:16:15 AM EDT
[url]http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/STRIKE_MAIN.html[/url] Bombing Pause Overnight U.S. Airstrikes Focused on Taliban, al Qaeda Troops, Munitions Oct. 12 — After a punishing fifth night of airstrikes targeting Taliban forces and bunkers in Afghanistan, U.S. jets stopped bombing raids today out of respect for the Muslim main prayer day. In the Afghan capital of Kabul, residents emerged from their homes today to survey the damage from dozens of overnight explosions, including one that hit a Taliban munitions dump. But Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no pre-planned strikes were under way today because of the Muslim holy day, although U.S. forces were prepared to hit emerging targets if necessary. Before the lull, overnight U.S. airstrikes targeted training camps, garrisons and bunkers because few aircraft fields and command centers remained intact. The change marked a major shift in the military campaign intended to weaken the Taliban military and set the stage for ground operations meant to root out Osama bin Laden, the lead suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, and his terrorist network al Qaeda. "We have made a good first step in the military effort: destroying or damaging terrorist training camps, disrupting communications, weakening the Taliban military forces in Afghanistan and damaging their air defenses," Myers said. In a televised news conference Thursday night, President Bush said military action in Afghanistan would last "as long as it takes" to bring bin Laden and his cohorts to justice. But Bush also suggested the war could come to an end if the Taliban regime stopped harboring bin Laden and handed him over. "If you cough him up and his people today, then we'll reconsider what we are doing to your country," he said. "You still have a second chance." Taliban officials say the Afghan death toll has reached nearly 300, including women and children, although the exact number of casualties cannot be confirmed. Quoting a Taliban spokesman, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said today that at least 160 villagers were killed near the eastern city of Jalalabad, a hub of training camps for bin Laden's network, after bombs fell there on Wednesday night. Bin Laden and his followers are calling on all Muslims to wage holy war against the United States and its allies for attacking Afghanistan. In neighboring Pakistan, protests against the U.S. military campaign turned violent today on the first Muslim Sabbath since airstrikes began, although crowds were not as large as expected. In Karachi, demonstrators burned cars and hurled stones at U.S. fast-food restaurants. Pakistan's government vowed to control the protests. Americans are on high alert one day after the FBI issued a stark warning of possible terror attacks against U.S. interests at home and abroad over the next several days. The Bush administration continues to pursue terror suspects and today announced 39 additional groups and individuals whose financial assets will be targeted in the war on terrorism.
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