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Bombs in 48 Hours?

by Patrick Cockburn And Rupert Cornwell

The Independent

The US will strike at Osama bin Laden’s supply bases “in days rather than weeks” a senior opposition leader in northern Afghanistan, in daily contact with Washington, predicted yesterday.

Abdullah Abdullah, foreign minister of the opposition Northern Alliance, said US intervention in Afghanistan may involve the insertion of special forces combined with the bombing of Taliban troops at a later stage.

But he dismissed American claims that US special forces were already in Afghanistan in significant numbers. “They might be in the southern deserts, or in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the frontier is not properly delineated,” he said.

The Pentagon and the Taliban both dismissed reports that a US special forces unit had been captured in western Afghanistan, near the Iranian border. The Pentagon said it gave “no credence” to the story as officials insisted no US units are in the country.

Several hundred people protested in Washington yesterday against US retaliation. Attacks would “only increase the cycle of violence,” Larry Holmes, an organiser, said.

But a new Newsweek poll shows 65 per cent support for military action, even if innocent civilians are killed, and in his weekly radio address yesterday, President Bush vowed “war will be waged wherever terrorists hide, run or plan”.

The promised “hot pursuit” is expected to consist of limited air strikes targeting suspected terrorist bases and Taliban military installations, supplemented by commando-style operations and increased support to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

As the build-up continued, a British submarine and a destroyer passed through the Suez Canal yesterday, joining more than 20 British ships sent earlier to the Gulf. The US has sent up to 130 warplanes and 2,000 marines to the Gulf, as well as a naval battle group led by USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Three Muslim men suspected of belonging to a fundamentalist group plotting fresh attacks were arrested in Germany yesterday. The men were tracked down through a website which calls for Muslims to enlist in the war in the Caucasus, and raises money for the Taliban. CP

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