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The United States and Great Britain began strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Sunday.
The targeted actions were designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime, Bush said. He was addressing the nation from the Treaty Room in the White House less than an hour after explosions were reported in Kabul and other places in Afghanistan.
Blair confirmed that Great Britain was taking part in the offensive, deploying missile-firing submarines in the initial round of attacks. The two leaders said that France, Germany, Australia, and Canada also pledged forces as the operation unfolds.
"More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and across Asia have granted air transit or landing rights," Bush said. "Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world." Read the President's full statement.
"These brutal attacks are horrendous, terrorist acts, as inhuman as any in the world," the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, was reported by CNN to have said in a statement shortly after the Allied strikes began. "America will never achieve its political goals by launching bestial attacks on the Muslim people of Afghanistan," he added.
In a statement believed to have been taped before Sunday's air strikes on Afghanistan, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden appeared to be endorsing the September 11 attacks on the United States. "God has guided a bunch of Muslims to be at the forefront and destroyed America, a big destruction, I wish God would lift their position," reads the transcript provided by Al-Jazeera television, an Arabic satellite service which aired the tape.
"I swear by God the Great, America will never dream nor those who live in America will never taste security and safety unless we feel security and safety in our land and in Palestine," the transcript says. Read the transcript of Osama bin Laden's statement.
Operation Enduring Freedom
The Allied military action, called "Operation Enduring Freedom," came 26 days after terrorists killed more than 6,000 people in attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and a wing of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Terrorists believed to be part of the al Qaeda network hijacked four airliners and flew three of them into the buildings. The fourth aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania in an apparent bid by the passengers to wrest the controls from the hijackers. It is believed that the hijackers were intending to fly that aircraft into a target in Washington.
In his statement on Sunday, Bush said Taliban leaders had failed to meet his demands to close terrorist training camps, hand over leaders of the al Qaeda network and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens detained in Afghanistan. "None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price," Bush said. "By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans."
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