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AMERICA RETURNS FIRE
WASHINGTON (AP) The United States attacked terrorist targets inside Afghanistan from the air for the second night in a row today as President Bush vowed to bring evildoers to justice. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge reported for duty as head of the new Office of Homeland Security.
Strikes are continuing as we speak, said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At a Pentagon briefing, he said the fresh bombardment was accompanied by a renewed air drop of humanitarian assistance.
Halfway around the world, anti-aircraft fire could be heard in the Afghan capital of Kabul, electricity was cut and Taliban radio told residents to close the blinds on their windows and remain indoors.
Other strikes were under way on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, according to a Taliban official who refused to be identified by name. In addition, Taliban positions around the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif were also under attack, a spokesman for the opposition northern alliance, Ashraf Nadim, said by telephone.
Bush said earlier today that Sundays opening round of attacks against terrorist targets in Afghanistan was executed as planned.
On all efforts, on all fronts, were going to be ongoing and relentless as we tighten the net of justice against terrorists, said the commander in chief as he presided over a swearing-in ceremony for Ridge.
Bush spoke at the White House after British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said 30 sites had been hit in Sundays opening wave of U.S.-led attacks, including the military infrastructure of Afghanistans Taliban regime and the bases of bin Laden and his al-Qaida terror network.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said all planes returned safely to their far-flung bases following the onset of military action designed to bring the battle to the terrorists responsible for the attacks that killed thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Ridge, who resigned as Pennsylvania governor a few days ago, took his seat at the center of power in Washington. The size and scope of this challenge are immense, he said moments after he was sworn in.
37,000 kits of food, medicine dropped
Bush, presiding, said Rumsfeld had informed him that the military mission of Sunday was executed as planned and at the same time, that our good nation dropped over 37,000 kits of food and medicine.
With the FBI cautioning persistently about the threat of renewed terrorism, officials were looking warily to southern Florida, where local health officials reported finding anthrax bacteria in the nasal passage of a co-worker of the man who died last week from the disease. The building where both worked was closed after the bacteria also were detected there.
There is no evidence to suggest anything yet and thats why the FBI is investigating, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
As for the initial round of military targets, We know they were successfully hit in many respects, Rumsfeld said. He told The Associated Press that the assault targeted two to three dozens sites, including terrorist training camps, military airfields, military aircraft, air defense radars and surface-to-air missile sites.
Rumsfeld rejected Taliban claims that they had shot down an aircraft, as well as claims of significant civilian casualties.
We have approved every single target and each one is a military target, he told the AP.
Firepower struck military command centers of the Taliban regime in Kandahar, Pentagon officials said, and Afghan sources said smoke billowed from the high-walled compound of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who was believed to have fled.
Explosions also rocked Kabul, the capital, and were heard coming from or near some of the training camps of Osama bin Laden, the Wests most hunted man.
The Talibans ambassador to neighboring Pakistan said 20 civilians in the Kabul area were killed by missiles. Taliban officials also said three people were killed and three or four were injured in Kandahar. A check of Kabuls four hospitals turned up no reports of casualties.
In Pakistan, violence broke out in two volatile cities along the border with Afghanistan. Thousands of Taliban supporters battled police and burned buildings, with two U.N. offices among the targets. One person was killed and 26 were hurt in the southwestern city of Quetta, a doctor said. Pakistans president insisted his support of the U.S.-led coalition reflected the will of the people.
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In all, Afghan targets were pounded by 15 land-based bombers, including B-2 Stealths from Missouri, and 50 U.S. and British cruise missiles fired from surface ships and submarines in the Arabian sea, said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
They were supported by 25 other strike aircraft flying from carrier battle groups. One B-52 in the raid had its nose section repainted with the legend, NYPD, we remember, in honor of the New York Police Department, one pilot said.
In a videotape recorded before the assault and released after it, bin Laden belittled the grieving of Americans for the thousands who died in the Sept. 11 attacks that sent hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years, he said.
U.S. officials are holding bin Laden responsible for the attacks; he has denied involvement but in the tape had high praise for the hijackers.
Airports, sports stadiums, state capitols and office buildings heightened security precautions that had already been elevated since Sept. 11. The FBI urged law enforcement agencies nationwide to move to their highest level of alert.