U.S. bombs suspected Afghan bio-weapons sites

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U.S. bombs suspected Afghan bio-weapons sites

By Matt Kelley Associated Press Writer

November 11, 2001, 10:33 AM EST

WASHINGTON -- U.S. forces have bombed some sites in Afghanistan that could have been involved in producing chemical, biological or radiological weapons, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.

Other such sites have been left alone, and others likely have not been found, Rumsfeld said.

Getting information that a site may be producing weapons of mass destruction ``faces you with a situation, are you best taking it out or are you best learning more about it,'' Rumsfeld said on ``Fox News Sunday.''

The New York Times reported today that the United States had identified three possible weapons of mass destruction sites in Afghanistan used by bin Laden's al-Qaida network, and had avoided bombing them.

In a recent interview with a Pakistani journalist, bin Laden claimed to have weapons of mass destruction but said he would not use them unless the United States used such weapons first.

Rumsfeld said he is worried bin Laden's boast may be true. He said al-Qaida is known to have links to terrorism-sponsoring countries that can make chemical, biological and radiological weapons.

``It does not take a leap of intelligence to know that if they have a relationship ... then he (bin Laden) either has them, will have them or wants to have them,'' Rumsfeld said. ``I know a lot about it from intelligence. On the other hand, you have to know a lot more to know precisely whether you have these capabilities that are readily useable.''

Radiological weapons are made with nuclear material, combined with conventional explosives, and spread radiation without creating a nuclear blast.

Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, said there is ``no credible evidence'' bin Laden had acquired nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he thought it unlikely the Saudi exile had such weapons.

She said America is doing everything possible to make sure al-Qaida does not get chemical or biological weapons, either.

``We believe that we have a very, very aggressive program under way to make certain that he does not acquire them,'' Rice said on ABC's ``This Week.'' ``We have every intelligence operation practically in the world on the problem of al-Qaida and the Taliban and their weapons of mass destruction at this point.''

The United States began bombing in Afghanistan on Oct. 7 to retaliate for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Bin Laden and his network are the chief suspects, and the United States is also trying to dislodge the Taliban militia that shelters bin Laden's group.

Anti-Taliban forces have control of the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, but are facing pockets of resistance from Taliban and al-Qaida forces, as well as foreign Taliban supporters, Rumsfeld said. The city's main airport is not yet completely secured by the northern alliance, he said. Taliban convoys are streaming out of the city and are being attacked by the U.S. from the air and by the northern alliance from the ground, Rumsfeld said.

The northern alliance also is ``putting pressure'' on the cities of Herat in the northwest and Taloqan in the northeast, Rumsfeld said. Northern alliance forces said Sunday they had captured Taloqan, their former headquarters; the Taliban denied that claim.

The United States cannot stop the northern alliance from taking the Afghan capital of Kabul, Rumsfeld said. President Bush said Saturday he wants the anti-Taliban forces to stop short of entering Kabul so that a broad-based, post-Taliban government can be formed.

Rumsfeld said that was his goal, too, adding that Kabul has been so devastated by two decades of war that whoever took the city would need immediate help to feed its approximately 1 million residents.

Powell, on NBC's ``Meet the Press,'' said: ``We think it would be better if they would `invest' the city, making it untenable for the Taliban to continue to occupy, and then we'll see.''

Copyright 2001, The Associated Press \


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 11, 2001

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