U.S., British strike Afghanistan

American and British forces struck Afghanistan with a massive military barrage Sunday, unleashing the first punishing assault in a war to destroy the terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11 and the radical Islamic regime that protects them.
The beginning of America's retaliation was delivered by 15 land-based B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, 25 carrier-based warplanes and 50 cruise missiles from U.S. and British warships, including submarines, in the Arabian Sea. They struck Afghanistan's air defenses, its air force and terrorist training camps.
Afghan civilians were killed in the attack, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan said today. He refused to say how many but termed the attacks "huge."
"There were casualties," Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef told The Associated Press. "Civilians died. It was a very huge attack."
Zaeef did not explain where he got his information, and he could not say where the deaths purportedly occurred.
Air Force crew members who participated in the strikes described a smooth and successful mission.
"A normal day training in the States was more difficult," said a B-1 bombardier who was identified only as "Vinny."
Alliance to expand: Bush promised a broad international alliance in coming days. He noted that Canada, Australia, Germany and France have pledged to commit military forces as the campaign rolls on.
"Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places," he said. "Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice."
Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks on America, vowed new terror in a statement videotaped from his hiding place, presumably in Afghanistan, and released Sunday.
Bin Laden was not specifically a target in Sunday's attacks, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He said the war on terror aims at much bigger targets than bin Laden alone: the eradication of terrorist networks.
Food air-dropped: In addition, some 35,000 rations of food and medical supplies were air-dropped for the suffering Afghan people. Bush said the move underscored that the war is not directed against the Afghans, but against the terrorists in their midst and the regime that shelters them.
The strikes started 26 days after the most devastating attack on American soil since the Civil War. The Sept. 11 terrorist assaults killed an estimated 5,600 Americans in New York, suburban Washington and Pennsylvania, and blasted the nation out of an era of peace and confidence into a state of war and fear.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged that the new campaign carries risks for Afghan civilians who might be killed, and it could ignite new terrorist assaults.
But, Blair said, "the dangers of inaction are far, far greater -- the threat of further such outrages, the threat to our economies, the threat to the stability of the world."
What's expected: Bush warned that Americans face the possibility of terrorist reprisals both at home and abroad. As a precaution, Vice President Dick Cheney was moved to an undisclosed location while Bush remained at the White House. The State Department warned Americans abroad to be alert. National Guard and police security was beefed up around the nation.
The headquarters of Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban regime in Kandahar was destroyed in the first wave of missile strikes, according to Al-Jazeera television in Qatar. But the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said the regime's leader and bin Laden both survived.
"By the grace of God, Mullah Omar and bin Laden are alive," Taliban Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Independent verification of his claim was impossible. Rumsfeld told reporters in midafternoon that it was too soon to know how successful the strikes were. He said he did not know of any casualties or planes being downed.
The Taliban vowed to fight.
"This attack by America is a terrorist act," said Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. "Poor and common Afghans will die, for which America will be responsible. This is an attack on an independent country. We will fight to the last breath."
The attack: The initial strike involved 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from American and British ships. Gen. Richard Myers said 15 bombers and 25 strike aircraft, both sea and land-based, also were involved.
Rumsfeld said the strikes were designed to eliminate the Taliban's air defenses and destroy their military aircraft. Afghanistan's rulers are known to have a small inventory of surface-to-air missiles as well as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.
Afghan sources in Pakistan said the attack had damaged the Taliban military headquarters and destroyed a radar installation and control tower at the airport in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Smoke could be seen billowing from the high-walled compound of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, these sources added.
One Pentagon official said that while highly visible attacks were being carried out, other operations would not be seen publicly. Officials have said previously that U.S. special forces have been operating inside Afghanistan.
Roughly an hour after the first volley of cruise missiles, Taliban forces came under attack from the Northern Alliance, Afghan opposition forces who fired multiple-rocket launchers from an air base about 25 miles north of Kabul.
Bush spoke less than an hour after the first explosion could be heard in Kabul, followed by the sounds of anti-aircraft fire. Power went off throughout the city almost immediately after the first of five thunderous blasts.