Afghan cities shook under the force of a fresh U.S. aerial bombardment today, as Washington acknowledged that special forces are operating in southern Afghanistan in support of the CIA. War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last night that Afghans could soon expect to see U.S. ground forces in their country. Taliban officials said yesterday the death toll from the air strikes had risen sharply as Kabul and Kandahar have come under intense bombardment. A Taliban spokesperson said between 600 and 900 people are killed or missing. Witnesses said many victims were civilians. After pounding major Afghan cities for 13 days with the biggest bombs residents of this war-ravaged country have ever known, the United States used slow-moving psychological operations aircraft yesterday to broadcast messages such as, “We do not wish to harm you,” in local dialects.
A media advocacy group yesterday criticized the U.S. military for buying exclusive rights to commercial satellite imagery of Afghanistan, and said the move amounts to censorship because it blocks media access to views of the war zone. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders urged War Secretary Rumsfeld to revoke a deal that gives the U.S. military sole access to pictures taken by IKONOS, considered the most efficient civilian satellite that display the areas being bombed by U.S. and British war planes. As The War and Peace Report reported earlier this week, the Pentagon has bought up the exclusive rights to the images from the satellite, which would show civilian dead on the ground in Afghanistan.
Anthrax bacteria spread by mail to Argentina and Kenya, and new cases emerged in the United States, as officials worldwide moved to contain what they call a “growing bioterrorist threat.” A postal worker in New Jersey and an assistant to CBS News anchor Dan Rather have tested positive for skin anthrax, as health officials said New York hospitals are being flooded by terrified residents demanding tests for the bacteria. Officials reveal the postal worker had contracted skin anthrax while a second postal worker is still being tested. The pair worked in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, the site of a sorting office through which two anthrax-filled letters earlier sent to Brokaw and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle both passed. Investigators combed through the U.S. Congress buildings searching for traces of anthrax after 31 people tested positive for exposure.
Israeli tanks moved and invaded Bethlehem early Friday, hours after Israeli forces blew up three Palestinian activists in the West Bank town and as the United States issued a plea for restraint. Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen traded fire after 20 Israeli tanks penetrated deep into the autonomous Palestinian town, while two more Palestinians died elsewhere in the West Bank. Earlier, Palestinian gunmen shot dead an Israeli tourist and wounded several others, after three other Palestinians, including a schoolgirl, were killed yesterday by Israeli tank fire. Israeli troops killed a Palestinian policeman during clashes in the West Bank city of Ramallah. And a 13-year-old Palestinian boy died in the Gaza Strip when a live Israeli tank shell he was handling exploded. The deaths brought the toll from nearly 13 months of unrest to 887, including 687 Palestinians and 178 Israelis.
The British High Court has given the government the go-ahead to help Nigeria trace more than a billion dollars allegedly looted by late dictator Sani Abacha. Nigeria is trying to recover more than $3 billion allegedly embezzled during General Abacha’s rule, which ended with his death in 1998.
More than 10,000 Muslims, some singing “Our Blood Is Boiling,” marched through the Indonesian capital of Jakarta today in the country’s biggest protest to date against U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan.