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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


New anthrax scare hits post office

WASHINGTON/KABUL (REUTERS) — U.S. warplanes slammed Afghanistan Sunday to start the third week of President Bush’s war on terrorism, while a new case of anthrax forced the closing of Washington’s main post office as 2,000 anxious employees took tests for the potentially deadly disease.

While Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban moved to distribute weapons throughout the country to counter U.S. ground strikes, the United States took aim from the air, apparently at the key northern front, as it pounded its response to last month’s mass killing of civilians in New York and Washington.

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Afghan winter approaching, U.S. and British leaders stressed the need for speedy action to neutralize the puritanical Islamic Taliban and their “guest,” Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 suicide attacks that killed some 5,400 people.

A new anthrax scare swept through an already tense Washington, where office buildings lawmakers use were shut last week after a letter filled with the deadly bacteria was delivered to the office of Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle. Twenty-eight Senate staff members tested positive for exposure to the bacteria out of some 5,000 who underwent tests.

Doctors said they were fighting to save the life of a mail sorter who worked in the main post office that serves the U.S. capitol after he became gravely ill with inhaled anthrax — the most deadly form of the potential germ-warfare weapon.

It was the ninth U.S. anthrax infection so far and the third of the deadly inhaled form, which has so far claimed one life. The other six infections were mostly with less-deadly skin anthrax.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams said all 2,000 workers at the Brentwood mail sorting facility which handled an anthrax-contaminated letter sent to Daschle last week will be tested, along with 150 workers at a facility near the airport. The infected employee worked at both facilities. The Brentwood office was shut pending tests.

Congressional leaders said Sunday that the Senate and House of Representatives office buildings will remain closed Monday as authorities checked for anthrax contamination, but lawmakers will hold legislative sessions on Tuesday. While office buildings were to remain shut, the Capitol building will be open, they said.

Capitol authorities said environmental sweeps of the Capitol complex through Sunday turned up no new “hot spots” for anthrax.


There has been no hard evidence to link the outbreak of anthrax to the Saudi-born bin Laden, but President Bush has said he wouldn’t put it past him.

The U.S. inability to pinpoint the source of the anthrax was evident Sunday, when Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked if Iraq might be involved in the anthrax bioterrorism.

“I just don’t know … I don’t put it past Iraq. We know they have been working on this kind of terror weapon, and we keep a very close eye on them,” Powell told CNN.

A joint statement issued after Bush met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim economic summit in China, said Russia would cooperate to counter an array of terrorist threats.

“They agreed to increase bilateral and multilateral actions to prevent the export and distribution of nuclear, chemical and biological materials, the technology connected with them and the means for their delivery,” the statement said.

In Afghanistan a special Cabinet session Sunday decided to distribute rocket launchers, heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns in towns, villages and districts across the country to counter U.S. ground raids after the first strike by U.S. special forces troops opened a new phase in the war.

“The decision was made to mobilize and equip people in all districts, villages and provinces against the commando attack of America,” Taliban Education Minister Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi told Reuters.

He said the Taliban killed 20 to 25 of more than 100 elite U.S. special forces who Friday night raided a command center near Kandahar used by Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, as well as an airfield in southern Afghanistan.

Qatar’s al-Jazeera television quoted the Taliban as saying their soldiers had found pieces of a U.S. helicopter and traces of blood near the Kandahar center.

But Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismissed the claim. “I think that is the Taliban wishing for some good news these days,” he told ABC television.


Myers said the troops gathered intelligence material from the command center, declaring the operation a success.

He also said U.S. forces would take bin Laden alive if possible but “bullets will fly” if necessary.

Asked whether he had started to prepare targets in Iraq, Myers did not reply directly but said: “This is a global war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan is only one small piece. So of course we’re thinking very broadly.

“I would say, since World War II, we haven’t thought this broadly about a campaign,” he added.

Sunday’s air strikes were believed aimed at Taliban front lines north of the capital of Kabul, where troops were massed to hold off any attack by the opposition Northern Alliance.

The Northern Alliance, only 35 miles from Kabul, has been eagerly awaiting U.S. air strikes so that they can advance.

But U.S. planes had so far held off, apparently in deference to Pakistan, a key U.S. ally that opposes an advance on Kabul by the mainly ethnic Uzbek and Tajik opposition at the expense of the majority Pashtun, to whom the Taliban belong and who make up a sizable portion of Pakistan’s own population.

An Alliance commander said U.S. fighters struck targets just behind Taliban front lines north of Kabul. A plume of black smoke could be seen in the distance from the outskirts of the Alliance stronghold of Charikar.

Another senior Alliance commander said the opposition was preparing for a full assault on the key northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif after receiving advice from U.S. personnel. The loss of the town could seriously disrupt Taliban links with other northern areas and open up a new route to Kabul.

Secretary of State Powell said the alliance was likely to soon “start moving on Kabul more aggressively.”

Asked if Kabul or Kandahar had to fall by winter, Powell said, “It would be in our interest and the interest of the coalition to see this matter resolved before winter strikes, and it makes our operations that much more difficult.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, warned Washington of explosive consequences in the Islamic world if military strikes in Afghanistan stretched into the month of Ramadan, beginning in about four weeks. But Powell would not rule it out, saying it was up to the Pentagon to decide.

The Taliban said Sunday’s raids on Kabul killed 18 civilians, including women and children, and wounded 23. It said 900 civilians have been killed since the raids began on Oct. 7, a figure hotly disputed by the United States.

Eight members of one family, four of them children no older than 8, were among those killed, relatives said. But for a shortage of blood in Kabul’s hospitals, the lives of two of the children could have been saved, an uncle told Reuters.


Bush won political support in his war on terrorism at the meeting in China of Asia Pacific leaders, who condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and vowed to find the perpetrators.

But a declaration at the end of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit stopped short of endorsing military action in Afghanistan, or naming bin Laden.

The air raids have worsened an already serious humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, with aid agencies reporting hundreds of thousands of Afghans on the move inside the country and thousands trying to cross into neighboring Pakistan or Iran.

A U.N. official said strikes overnight had delayed by at least 24 hours nine truckloads of U.N. aid from reaching the ravaged western town of Herat.
Nigel Fischer of the U.N. Children’s Fund told Reuters at the Iranian border town of Dogharun that up to 6 million Afghans were in dire need of aid.

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