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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bush says U.S. ’on full alert’

President Bush said Thursday night the military strikes in Afghanistan have put the al Qaeda terrorist network 'on the run' and promised that U.S. forces will keep up the hunt until the 'evil-doers' are brought to justice. 




In the first prime-time news conference of his presidency, Bush repeatedly sought to reassure Americans that the federal government is doing 'everything we can' to guard against new terrorist attacks and urged Americans not to let the threats disrupt daily life. 'Our government is on full alert,' he said.  




Bush said he doesn't know whether terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is dead or alive after five days of military action in Afghanistan, and he issued a new call to the Taliban regime there to turn over bin Laden.  




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'I will say it again, if you cough him up and his people today that we'll reconsider what we're doing to your country,' Bush said. 'You still have a second chance. Just bring him in and bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him.' 












The FBI warned Thursday that additional terrorist acts could be directed at U.S. interests at home and abroad over the 'next several days,' marking the most specific and urgent call of alarm from the Bush administration since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. 




The two-sentence warning, issued by FBI headquarters in Washington shortly before 4 p.m. EDT, offered no specifics about the type or location of possible attacks or about the information that led to the unusual public notice.  




'This is the real deal,' a senior intelligence official said. He noted that the possibility of new attacks was 'a little higher than last week,' when the CIA and FBI told lawmakers in a briefing that there was a very high probability of future attacks, especially as the United States began military strikes in Afghanistan Sunday.  




Thursday marked the second time in a week that the FBI asked law enforcement agencies to be on the highest alert, but it was the first since Sept. 11 to pointedly suggest that attacks could occur within a specific time frame. Officials said they provided information to avoid the confusion that has followed previous alerts leaked to the news media and so that appropriate precautions could be taken. But they offered no specific suggestions to an already jittery public.  




Many police departments and emergency officials around the United States said they were already at their highest state of readiness and there was little more they could do. The FBI had previously recommended increased security for water supplies, trucks, nuclear facilities, power plants, crop-dusters and other potential terrorist targets.  




The FBI's brief warning said: 'Certain information, while not specific as to target, gives the government reason to believe that there may be additional terrorist acts within the United States and against U.S. interests overseas over the next several days. The FBI has again alerted all local law enforcement to be on the highest alert and we call on all people to immediately notify the FBI and local law enforcement of any unusual or suspicious activity.'  












As U.S. warplanes pounded the Afghan capital of Kabul Thursday during the fifth straight day of bombing, Pentagon officials reported that airstrikes had devastated mountain cave complexes and may have struck Taliban leader Mullah Mohamad Omar's Chevrolet Suburban with several as yet unidentified individuals inside.  




Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Thursday that cave complexes, which he declined to further identify, had been hit by an array of precision munitions, including a GBU-28 'bunker buster,' a 5,000-pound laser-guided bomb designed to penetrate buried concrete structures.  




While Rumsfeld offered no indication whether the caves may have been occupied at the time of the strikes, destroying the complexes was an important objective, since bin Laden'the terrorist leader U.S. officials hold responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks'has used fortified caves as residences and headquarters.  




Pentagon officials said the air campaign had shifted from fixed targets associated with the Taliban and bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network to troop concentrations and other 'emerging targets.'  




In Islamabad, Pakistan, meanwhile, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said 140 civilians had been killed over the first day of bombing, including 15 people at a mosque he claimed was destroyed in Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border that is close to numerous training camps associated with al Qaeda.  




Responding to questions from reporters, Rumsfeld denied targeting civilians and expressed regret at any 'unintended loss of life.' Other senior defense officials said they had received no collateral reporting to indicate that either large numbers of civilians had been killed or a mosque destroyed.

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