Tags: British | Paper: | U.S. | British | Offensive | Due | Soon

British Paper: U.S., British Offensive Due Soon

Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM

Britain was backing the military operation, which was aimed at killing bin Laden and his forces, according to the Sunday Observer newspaper. British and U.S. sources said the operation could begin as early as Sunday, the London-based publication reported. It did not identify its sources further, except for calling them American security sources and sources in Washington.

Independent confirmation of the newspaper report was not immediately available early Sunday.

On Saturday, President George W. Bush said his effort to form a global coalition for the administration's war on terrorism "is gaining momentum" after a host of envoys from Europe, the Middle East and Asia visited the White House in the past week.

"International cooperation is gaining momentum," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address. The president spent the weekend huddled with advisers at Camp David in the Maryland mountains outside Washington.

"This (past) week, I met with the prime ministers of two of America's closest friends, Canada and Japan," Bush said. "Other countries, from Russia to Indonesia, are giving strong support as the war against terrorism moves forward."

Also on Saturday, demonstrations on the anticipated U.S. military action in Afghanistan were staged in Washington and other cities, drawing several thousand participants.

The protesters included those supporting and those rejecting military strikes against suspected terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. About 6,000 people are presumed dead in those attacks.

On Saturday, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani announced updated figures. He said 5,641 people are registered as missing by the police, including 309 dead, of which 248 were identified.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said Saturday that it will continue to press Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to surrender bin Laden, the United States' prime suspect in terror attacks.

Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider told reporters that his government has a duty to keep trying to persuade the Taliban to comply with international anti-terrorism demands.

Taliban leaders have asked bin Laden to leave Afghanistan voluntarily, but they have refused to expel him. The United States has warned Taliban leaders that they face a likely military offensive if they continue to refuse to hand over bin Laden and other terrorist suspects hiding in Afghanistan.

The Taliban rulers were setting up military headquarters in Khost province along Pakistan's northwestern border, Radio Iran reported Saturday.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar ordered his troops to move close to the Pakistani border because he is expecting a ground offensive from inside Pakistan if the United States decides to strike against Afghanistan.

"In case of a U.S. military offensive, the Taliban's strategy would be to extend the war to 1,560-mile-long Pakistan's tribal belt that borders Afghanistan," an Afghan military strategist told United Press International. Most of the tribes in this belt live on both sides of the so-called Durand line that separated Afghanistan from British India until 1947 when Britain left the subcontinent after partitioning it into India and Pakistan.

On Friday, Bush said the U.S. military was "in hot pursuit" of those behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks, amid reports that special forces were already on the ground in Afghanistan hunting bin Laden.

USA Today reported Friday that U.S. special operation forces have been inside Afghanistan for the last two weeks searching for bin Laden though they were having a difficult time locating him "and are asking other nations for additional intelligence help."

While English and Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan have reported the movement of U.S. forces into Afghanistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials did not officially acknowledge the movement.

The objective of the teams is to capture or kill bin Laden. But if they cannot get to bin Laden, their orders are to "pin him down in an area until U.S. air strikes can be launched," according to USA Today.

CNN and the BBC later reported that senior officials had confirmed that British and U.S. forces were conducting reconnaissance in Afghanistan "to pave the way" for future military action.

Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Friday that three copies of an Arabic letter preparing the bearer for death link the Sept. 11 hijackers in the same conspiracy.

A copy of the letter was found in the misdirected luggage of suspect Mohamed Atta, believed killed when he and other hijackers flew an airliner out of Boston into the World Trade Center in New York City.

Another copy was found in a car left by suspect Nawaf Alhamzi at Dulles International Airport. Alhamzi and other suspected hijackers died when they allegedly forced a Los Angeles-bound jetliner to crash into the Pentagon near Washington.

Yet a third copy was found in the wreckage of a hijacked airliner in rural Pennsylvania.

The finding "of these three separate letters is clear evidence linking the hijackers on Sept. 11," Ashcroft said at a news conference in FBI headquarters.

The State Department warned all Americans overseas on Friday about the potential for additional terrorist strikes in light of increasing anti-American statements from extremist groups overseas.

"The U.S. government remains deeply concerned about the security of Americans overseas," said a public announcement released Friday. "Following the attacks on Sept. 11, we have continuing concern based on threatening rhetoric from extremist groups and the potential for further terrorist actions against American citizens and interests."

The State Department has evacuated nine overseas posts in five countries of all "non-essential" personnel. This includes four posts in Pakistan.

At a rally near the White House on Saturday, one group of peace protesters dressed up as peace cranes, wearing white sheets hung on outstretched wires on their backs as wings.

"The cranes are a symbol that go back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki," said Joe Cole, a 35-year-old volunteer for the Paper Hand Puppet Intervention, a group that stages puppet shows to educate on environmental and peace issues.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators had planned to come to Washington for the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings originally scheduled for this weekend, but which were canceled due to security concerns. Some of those demonstrators decided to show up anyway, altering their protests to address the imminent U.S. military action against suspected terrorists.

On the West Coast, anti-war protests in Los Angeles and San Francisco were largely peaceful and held under cloudless skies. No arrests were reported.

In Europe, Britain deported to France one of three men arrested in northern England last week in connection with a planned suicide attack on the United States Embassy in Paris, Leicestershire police said Saturday. Police sources said the 23-year-old man escaped arrest during an earlier French police sweep on terror suspects in France. Although Leicestershire police declined to identify the deportee, he was named in earlier reports as a French citizen of Algerian descent with connections to bin Laden.

Government officials have pegged the cost of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center at about $40 billion. The costs include more than $4 billion for repairing the subways and $3.6 billion in overtime and other costs for police, firefighters and other city workers, including replacing more than 30 fire trucks.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., estimated the cost of cleanup is about $100 million a week. The New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said it estimated more than 100,000 jobs -- mainly in securities, retail and restaurants -- would be lost in the city within one month of the attack. It will cost more than $7 billion to haul away more than 1 million tons of rubble left in the wake of the collapsed World Trade Center. So far about 10 percent or 139,789 tons of rubble has been hauled out of Manhattan in 9,403 truckloads.

The wrecking of Building No. 4 of the World Trade Center, damaged by the collapse of the twin towers, began Saturday. Traffic restrictions ban automobiles without at least two occupants from entering Manhattan from 6 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, a Muslim, and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien were among those visiting "Ground Zero" in Lower Manhattan on Saturday.

It's unbelievable," Cem said. "I just prayed for those who lost their lives."

Chretien said, "It's an unbelievable sight for me to see what happened. We have to tell everybody that whatever their language, the color of their skins and the religions that you profess that we are all together, and terrorism will be defeated."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Britain was backing the military operation, which was aimed at killing bin Laden and his forces, according to the Sunday Observer newspaper. British and U.S. sources said the operation could begin as early as Sunday, the London-based publication reported. It did not...
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Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM
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