US strikes kill key Taliban and al-Qa'ida leaders

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The Independent US

US air strikes on two buildings in Afghanistan killed senior leaders of the Taliban and al–Qa'ida , the Pentagon said today.

Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the strikes were on buildings near Kabul on Tuesday and Kandahar yesterday.

"There was some senior leadership. ... No evidence that it was Osama bin Laden," she added.

The spokeswoman said she had no information on how many had died in the attack or their identities.

The buildings were chosen as targets on the basis of intelligence information received prior to the strikes, she said.

Ms Clarke said there would be no halt in the bombing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend: "The terrorists don't take a break, we don't take a break."

Meanwhile,small numbers of US special operations forces are in the south of Afghanistan, continuing such activities as roadblocks and searching out potential havens of opposition activity. Clarke declined to be more specific on the number.

Queried whether bin Laden was still believed to be in Afghanistan, the spokeswoman declined to answer the question. "We don't have him," she said.

Asked if he were still alive, Ms Clarke said, "We've heard nothing to indicate otherwise."

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Schiefs of Staff, told a national security conference in Washington that the military campaign in Afghanistan is "only the beginning" of a long battle America will have to fight against terrorism.

He said fighting continued with pockets of Taliban still fighting around Kunduz, where he said there could be several thousand still resisting.

Gen Myers said the land bridge between Uzbekistan and Mazar–i–Sharif, which was the first city to fall to the anti–Taliban forces "is open and supplies are starting to come in that way."

"This is exactly the right time of year to start getting some supplies in to help those that don't have the food or the clothing or the blankets to make it through the winter," he said.