Bush says week of bombing taking toll

'Paying a price'

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

WASHINGTON -- As fear of anthrax and yet more terrorism took a toll on America's nerves, President Bush assured the public Saturday: ''We are taking strong precautions.'' He said terrorists and their Taliban allies, pounded by a seventh day of airstrikes, are ''paying a price.''

''I understand that many Americans are feeling uneasy. But all Americans should be assured we are taking strong precautions, we are vigilant,'' the president said at the start of a weekend when, according to an FBI warning, terrorists might strike again.

Causes for alarm piled up.

Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network warned of a new ''storm of airplanes'' and said Muslims in the United States and Britain should avoid planes and tall buildings. An al-Qaida spokesperson also said Bush, his father, former President Bush; former President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would not escape punishment for ''crimes'' against Muslims.

Five more employees of American Media Inc. tested positive for anthrax exposure, the Florida tabloid publishing company announced Saturday on the heels of the anthrax case reported Friday at NBC in New York.

Health officials confirmed the presence of anthrax in a letter postmarked in Trenton, N.J., and handled by an assistant to NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

Across the country, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn announced that a letter sent from Malaysia to a Carson City Microsoft office tested positive for the deadly germ.

Separately, The New York Times said a powdery substance in an envelope sent to one of its reporters tested negative for anthrax and other dangerous biological materials.

Anthrax jitters reached as far as the Arabian Sea, where the USS Enterprise participated in bombing raids on Afghanistan.

Over the aircraft carrier's public address system, the Enterprise captain warned his crew Saturday to be ''extremely careful'' with mail.

''Everybody now is talking about, 'Are we going to get anthrax from the personal letter mail?''' said Dontai, a Richland, Ga., sailor working the Enterprise mail room and unable to give his last name for security reasons. ''My understanding is no -- for right now.''

At Camp David for the weekend, Bush was updated -- via video conference with top military and intelligence advisers -- on both the anthrax investigations and the military assault on Afghanistan's Taliban militia.

The Pentagon confirmed what civilians in the Afghan capital reported from the ground: a 2,000-pound bomb aimed at a Taliban military helicopter missed by a mile and hit a residential neighborhood near the Kabul airport.

Residents there said one person was killed and four wounded. In a statement, the Pentagon said it had no way to confirm Afghan casualties. Privately, a Defense Department official said the satellite-guided bomb went astray because someone entered one wrong digit in the target coordinates.

The State Department announced arrangements to expand American troop operations near the Afghan border but, according to a British official involved in joint U.S.-British military campaign, there was no plan for ''swarms and swarms of troops all over Afghanistan.''

''There will be some activity,'' said Clare Short, Britain's secretary for international development. But, she added in an interview with BBC radio, ''There isn't going to be a mass land invasion.''

Under a new agreement with Uzbekistan, the United States pledged to protect the security of the former Soviet republic on Afghanistan's northern border -- in exchange for permission for the U.S. military to use an Uzbekistan air base about 90 miles from the Afghan border.

Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves Sunday for Pakistan and India, to try to tamp down those countries' escalating tensions over control of Kashmir and keep them from complicating the anti-terror campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.

Bush used his weekly radio broadcast to update Americans on the various facets of his response to the Sept. 11 attacks and the continuing threat, outlined in an FBI warning last week, that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network will soon strike again.

''We're making a determined effort to take away his hiding places,'' Bush said. He asserted that a week of bombing raids has ''crippled'' the Taliban's air defenses and disrupted al-Qaida operations inside Afghanistan.

''I warned that time was running out for the Taliban to turn over the terrorists they shelter. They did not listen, and they are paying a price,'' Bush said.

The Taliban remained defiant. ''We have not agreed with America to hand over anyone,'' said Mullah Mohammed Omar, the regime's supreme leader.

Democrats, meanwhile, used their regular radio broadcast to turn attention to the shell-shocked American economy. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle insisted that any new legislation to stimulate the economy be only temporary.

''Permanent tax cuts and spending measures ... would actually hurt, by increasing our national debt, pushing up interest rates and raising the costs of housing,'' said Daschle, D-S.D.

On Friday, the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee approved a $100 billion package dominated by tax cuts. Democrats on the panel complained that the package favors businesses over unemployed workers.

Daschle said he was confident a compromise would be reached. ''Our economic future is too important to fall victim to politics or ideology,'' he said.

The Bush administration separately assembled a proposal for taxpayers to cover about 80 percent of the property claims that insurance companies would face in any future terrorist attacks, officials said.

At Camp David, Bush also worked with his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, on preparations for his trip next week to Shanghai, China, for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He will meet there with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other allies in his anti-terror coalition.

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