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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 03:14 GMT 04:14 UK
Special forces deploy in Afghanistan
US special forces in a military exercise
For now, US special forces are on a scouting mission
A senior White House official has confirmed that US and UK special forces have been operating within Afghanistan.

The commandos are carrying out scouting and reconnaissance missions, but are not actively hunting for the prime suspect Osama bin Laden, the unnamed official said.

US Marines training for possible duty in Afghanistan
US Marines training for possible duty in Afghanistan
The BBC defence correspondent says the news sends a signal to the American people that military groundwork is in hand to respond to the 11 September attacks on the United States.

To the Taleban, he says, the message is that the US means business, and the time has come to hand over Bin Laden.

On Friday, US Attorney General John Ashcroft released a letter which linked the hijackers of the three planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr Ashcroft said the letter was found in a piece of luggage belonging to Mohamed Atta, 33, an Egyptian suspected of being one of the leaders of the hijackers.

"This letter is clear evidence linking the hijackers on three separate flights," Mr Ashcroft said.

In other developments:

  • The United Nations Security Council approves a resolution to make the funding of terrorist groups illegal and freeze their funds
  • Former Afghan King Zahir Shah agrees to work with Northern Alliance against the Taleban
  • The FBI appeals for more information on the 19 men suspected of the hijackings
  • A Pakistani delegation returns home after failing to persuade Afghanistan's ruling Taleban to hand over Osama Bin Laden to the US
  • Emergency supplies start arriving in Pakistan for an anticipated mass influx of Afghan refugees
  • A British journalist is arrested by the Taleban suspected of having entered Afghanistan illegally
  • The official number of missing at the World Trade Center drops to 5,960 from 6,347, while confirmed deaths rise to 305.
  • US air force generals are authorised to order the shooting down of civilian airliners that appear to be threatening US cities

'Shocking view'

The four-page letter was, according to one BBC correspondent in Washington, part-instruction manual for the hijackers and part-prayer book.

FBI picture of the hijackers' letter
Three copies of the letter were found
Mr Ashcroft said it gave a "disturbing and shocking view into the mind-set of these terrorists".

In addition to the copy found in Mohamed Atta's luggage, Mr Ashcroft said two more were found.

One was in a vehicle parked by another hijacker at Dulles airport, near Washington, and a third in the wreckage of the hijacked plane which crashed in Pennsylvania.

"Mention much the name of God," the letter said, adding that the group were about to meet "the creator of the heavens and earth."

Mid-East co-operation

On Friday, President Bush said he was most pleased with the co-operation the US was getting from countries in the Middle East for its global campaign against terrorism.

He held talks with Jordan's King Abdullah, who offered the United States his full and unequivocal support, saying those who had carried out the attacks had acted "completely against all the principles that Arab and Muslims believe in".

After the talks President Bush gave the king a pen he had used earlier in the day to sign a free trade pact with Jordan.

He said Islam was a religion of love, peace and compassion - the opposite of the al-Qaeda network linked to Osama Bin Laden, which Mr Bush said was based on evil.

Palestinian youth slinging stones
King Abdullah wants a renewed push for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
King Abdullah has linked his condemnations of the attacks with a message that any war against terrorism should be linked to renewed efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Bush also said he was particularly impressed by help from Saudi Arabia.

BBC correspondents say this apparently confirms reports that Saudi Arabia has decided to allow US forces to make use of a vital command centre launch at a military base outside Riyadh.

Mr Bush ruled out further negotiation with the Taleban leaders of Afghanistan, where Bin Laden is being sheltered.

The BBC's David Shukman
"Any intervention in Afghanistan is fraught with danger"
Security expert Dr Mustafa Alani
says the US will be fighting an invisible enemy
See also:

24 Aug 01 | Middle East
Transcript: Interview with King Abdullah
24 Aug 01 | Middle East
Jordan's pragmatic king looks to future
23 Aug 01 | Middle East
Jordan's king calls for Mid-East talks
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