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Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
UK forces join attack
Blair: Confirmed UK submarines were involved
British submarines have launched cruise missiles at Afghanistan as part of the attacks against the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed that the UK has joined the US in a military response to the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Mr Blair said the British military base at the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, missile-firing submarines and reconnaissance and other aircraft are involved in the action.

The submarines fired cruise missiles on Sunday evening, he said in a statement at 10 Downing Street - and the aircraft would be used in coming days.

The Ministry of Defence later confirmed that three British submarines - HMS Trafalgar, Triumph and Superb - were involved in the Sunday attacks.

Mr Blair said he could not disclose how long the action - which began at about 1725BST - would last.

Sometimes to safeguard peace we have to fight

Tony Blair

The decision to act had not been taken lightly, and the start of action was a "moment of utmost gravity for the world."

"But we know that sometimes to safeguard peace we have to fight," he said.

Parliament is to be recalled on Monday at 1800BST to discuss the matter. Mr Blair will make a further statement then.

Mr Blair said it was very important that Britain be involved in the military action, not least because the 11 September terrorist attacks were the worst against UK citizens in history.

"This atrocity was an attack on us all, on people of all faiths and people of none," he said.

He praised the global coalition which had been built up against terrorism, said Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network threatened any nation which did not share its views, and reiterated that this was not a war against Islam.

'Immense anxiety'

Mr Blair paid tribute to the UK armed forces, saying he knew they were "amongst the very best in the world".

British submarines launched cruise missiles on Sunday

But he said he understood they were carrying an "immense burden" and would be feeling "deep anxiety" - as would the British people.

He said he knew there were dangers in action, but said the dangers of inaction were "far, far greater".

He said the UK would not rest until its objectives had been met in full.

Mr Blair outlined the objectives as being "to pursue those responsible for the attacks, to eradicate Bin Laden's network of terrorism and to take action against the Taleban regime that is sponsoring him".

Mr Blair said there was no doubt in his mind that the US terrorist attacks had been carried out by Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network and that it was also clear Afghanistan's Taleban authorities were sheltering him.

"They were given the choice of siding with justice and siding with terror, and they chose to side with terror," he said.

Airport worker relaxes after unloading a UK aid shipment from Britain to northeast Iran, which neighbours Afghanistan
Tony Blair said the action would be backed by aid
Mr Blair added that action was also being taken on diplomatic and humanitarian fronts, with Britain already contributing 36m to the aid effort.

He said the military plan had been put together to avoid as far as was possible civilian casualties.

On Sunday evening there were reports of loud explosions in the Afghan capital Kabul and the cities of Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e Sharif.

The raids were accompanied by aid drops of food, medicine and supplies, the US authorities confirmed.

About 24 British Royal Navy warships - led by flagship aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious - and about 23,000 British troops are in the region.

Demonstrators chanted 'We don't want this war'
Anti-war protests focused on Downing Street
They had been sent there before the 11 September US attacks for long-planned exercises with the Oman military, known as Saif Sareea 2.

BBC correspondent Kate Adie, in Muscat, Oman, said the mood among the troops was that such action was inevitable, and that "if they have to do something they will".

However, she said there was no clear role in the Afghanistan action for the bulk of the troops in Oman, and that the war games would continue as planned.

The leader of the UK opposition Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith, said he supported the action.

A group of about 100 demonstrators gathered at the gates of Downing Street on Sunday night, chanting "welfare not warfare" and "we don't want this war".

Meanwhile security has been stepped up across the UK to guard against any retaliatory action. London's Metropolitan Police are increasing the number of officers on the streets.

Britons in Indonesia have been advised to stay inside their homes amid fears of street protests in the strongly Muslim country, the Foreign Office have said.

It said a reaction was "likely" and advised against non-essential travel to the country, except to Bali.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Sometimes to safeguard peace, we have to fight"
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"The war has started"
The BBC's David Shukman
reports on weapons involved in this attack
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