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Saturday, 20 October, 2001, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Key sites targeted by US troops
Pentagon video of parachute drop
A Pentagon video showed a parachute drop
US special forces targeted sites used by leaders of the Taleban and al-Qaeda terror network in a parachute raid into southern Afghanistan, US officials say.

US Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers told a Pentagon briefing that troops attacked and destroyed two targets overnight, but did not meet significant resistance from Taleban forces.

We met resistance at both objectives, the airfield and the other objective, but I guess you would characterise it as light

US joint chiefs chairman Richard Myers
He identified the targets as an airfield at an undisclosed location and a command and control facility near the southern city of Kandahar where the Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar lived.

Air Force General Myers said the troops did not find any senior Taleban leaders at either location.

But the troops seized intelligence material at the command complex, US officials said.

General Myers said that two servicemen were lightly injured in the parachute jump but were "doing fine".

And he denied a Taleban claim that they had shot down a US helicopter, saying that the crash in Pakistani airspace - which killed two servicemen - was being treated as a mishap.

The raid was the first known combat operation on the ground since air strikes began on 7 October.

Click here to see where US ground forces have been operating

The joint chiefs chairman played video clips of the operation, showing what he described as preparations on the ground, the take-off of aircraft, parachute drops and the capture and destruction of a small weapons cache.

In other developments:

  • Pakistan says a senior Taleban official, tribal affairs minister Jalaluddin Haqqani, is holding talks in Islamabad on the creation of a broad-based government, but the minister himself gives no indication that anyone in the Taleban is ready to step down
    Refugees in the border town of Chaman
    Thousands of refugees streamed across the border into Pakistan
  • The exodus of Afghan refugees continues, with up to 4,000 people reported to have crossed the Chaman border post into Pakistan on Saturday
  • Pakistan allows the US to use a third airbase near the Afghanistan border
  • A small bomb explodes at the main international airport in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, but there are no casualties
  • Senior Afghan opposition commander General Dostum appears on Turkish television to deny reports of his death
  • President Bush tells the Asia-Pacific summit in Shanghai that the US is fighting for "values shared by the West, Asia and Islam"
  • The UN says its humanitarian operations in Afghanistan are threatened with a breakdown in law and order, and its ability to operate is diminishing daily

Taleban version

The Taleban had spoken about military action on the ground earlier in the day, saying they had forced US troops to withdraw while suffering no casualties themselves.

Taleban Education Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told Reuters news agency that several US helicopters carrying commandos landed on Baba Sahib mountain but "the Taleban approached there and forced them to flee back by firing at them."

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, who is in northern Afghanistan, says the sign is that there will be more such raids as the Americans search for Osama Bin Laden and continue their efforts to weaken the Taleban.

We are dismantling the Taleban defences, the Taleban military. We are destroying terrorist hideaways. We are slowly but surely circling the terrorists so that we can bring them to justice

President Bush

President Bush, who is in Shanghai for a summit of Pacific nations, was briefed about the operation in a secure video conference.

Referring to the helicopter crash victims, he said: "the important thing for me to tell the American people is these soldiers will not have died in vain".

He said the campaign was making good progress and it was "a just cause".

In northern Afghanistan, one of the leaders of the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance, General Rashid Dostum, said a team of American military personnel was also working with him directly on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Russian military has given the clearest signal yet that it regards the Northern alliance as inside Moscow's sphere of influence.

The Russian defence ministry's head of operations in Tajikistan, General Vladimir Popov, said Russia had given enough help to the alliance to, as he put it, complete its work and it needed no other assistance.

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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"The Pentagon says resistance was light"
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"The main purpose of the raids was to gather intelligence"
President George W Bush
"The soldiers died in a cause that is just and right"
See also:

19 Oct 01 | South Asia
US special forces 'inside Afghanistan'
01 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: US special forces
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Plight of the refugees
16 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: AC-130 gunship
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