Air strikes aimed at 30 targets

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The Independent Online

British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said that the American and British raids on Afghanistan were targeted at more than 30 military sites.

In a press conference at the Ministry of Defence today, Mr Hoon said that all were military targets, three in Kabul, four close to other urban areas and 23 elsewhere.

He said the Taliban had been "given every chance to surrender Osama bin Laden" and once again stressed that the allies were not attacking the people of Afghanistan and had no quarrel with the Islamic faith.

Admiral Michael Boyce, Chief of the Defence staff, said that the offensive began with attacks on Taliban anti-aircraft defences and the air force.

He said the United Kingdom has three nuclear powered submarines in the area that were used in the attack; HMS Superb, HMS Trafalgar and HMS Triumph.

Asked if ground forces would be sent in to Afghanistan, Mr Hoon said that "was clearly an option." But he said it was possible the Taliban would collapse under the pressure of the air strikes and that Western ground troops would not have to be deployed in a hostile environment.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the action is likely to last for weeks."We are certainly not talking days, unless something absolutely dramatic happens," he said.

Asked whether the United States and Britain would continue military operations until the Taliban were overthrown, Straw said "I'm not saying that."

"I'm saying that they will continue there is an assessment made by President Bush and our prime minister as to their effectiveness in terms of dealing with the threat of terrorism which has arisen from the al-Qa'ida organisation and Osama bin Laden."

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