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Pentagon: Air Strikes in Afghanistan - 2001-10-12


U-S defense officials say six days of air strikes against targets in Afghanistan are a good first step toward wiping out international terrorist groups.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters U-S warplanes have bombed most if not all of the al-Qaida terrorist network's training camps and weakened Taleban military control and air defense capabilities in Afghanistan.

Mr. Rumsfeld also said British defense officials were not speaking for the United States when they said the bombing campaign will likely be scaled back for Saturday's Muslim festival marking Prophet Mohammed's ascension to heaven. He said bombings may continue as U-S officials think necessary, and that breaks in the attacks should not be interpreted as pre-planned pauses. He said it would be unwise for terrorists to believe there are certain times when they are safe.

The Pentagon chief emphasized the Bush administration is not waging war on Islam. But he refused to discuss U-S plans during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He said he does not want to create expectations of what may or may not happen.

Secretary Rumsfeld also deflected a question as to whether U-S military ground troops were taking part in operations inside Afghanistan. He said there are a variety of ground forces in Afghanistan, including elements within the Taleban who do not support efforts to shelter Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida followers.

Meanwhile, British officials say the Taleban is making false claims about high civilian deaths from the air strikes for propaganda purposes. Taleban claims of at least 200 Afghan civilians killed since the air raids began on Sunday have not been independently confirmed.

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