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BRING OUT BIN LADEN ALIVE; British troops told: 'Don't shoot unless attacked'.

Byline: IAN SMITH

BRITISH troops will be sent to Afghanistan with orders to bring Osama bin Laden back alive.

President Bush has told the CIA to find and assassinate the man behind the September 11 attacks.

But Downing Street said our soldiers will obey the laws of war by not going out to kill the terror kingpin.

Tony Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell insisted: "Wherever our forces go, they act in accordance with the laws of war. Our troops would aim to apprehend while retaining the right to self-defence."

But Campbell said bin Laden could be shot if he or his henchmen open fire on British forces.

"This is not a video game," he warned. War is not a clean business and people can and do die.

"We have a terrorist organisation making it absolutely clear they would go and do all this over again.

"The purpose of this action is to bring those responsible to justice."

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said strikes on the Taliban and the al-Qaeda terror network were robbing bin Laden of places to hide.

Hoon added: "The areas in which bin Laden can freely move are now distinctly limited.

"I am confident that in due course, we will find him or someone else will give him up."

Hoon said the western allies were a lot closer to achieving their aims than they were two weeks ago.

But it was too early to expect the Taliban regime to collapse. Hoon said: "We do not expect them to give up overnight.

"Nevertheless, we do expect the pressure from the air strikes will have some results, and we anticipate these results will come sooner rather than later."

Hoon said British troops were on standby to leave for Afghanistan immediately.

He added: "We have always said British ground troops are an option. No specific decisions have been taken but we are exploring all the possibilities.

"I'm not going to put a timescale on it. We always have troops ready to go at very short notice."

America sent in special forces troops for two attacks late on Friday, and US generals want to make full use of the SAS.

British special forces are recognised as among the world's best. It's thought up to 200 SAS men could be used against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

There were reports yesterday that elite British troops have already engaged the Taliban. Aid workers claimed soldiers had been sighted near the city of Jalalabad.

Downing Street refused to comment on the use of special forces.

Air strikes continued yesterday, with US jets hitting Taliban positions near the front line of the regime's war with the rebel Northern Alliance.

Raids were reported on Taliban troops north of Kabul and around the vital northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, which the rebels are fighting to seize.

The attacks suggest America is doing all it can to help the Northern Alliance take Kabul before winter starts in a few weeks.

The official Taliban news agency reported heavy bombing 30 miles north of the city.

But one rebel officer called for more attacks. He said: "We are satisfied, but we would like a broader bombardment over a larger area."

US jets also mounted fierce attacks throughout the night around Mazar-e-Sharif. It was claimed the strikes devastated two heavily fortified bases guarding the southern approach to the town, damaged tanks and gun positions, and destroyed an ammunition depot.

Taking Mazar-e-Sharif would give the Northern Alliance control of key weapons supply routes from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Most of the rebel fighters are Uzbeks or Tajiks.

Officials in Washington denied Taliban claims that 100 civilians had been killed by bombs at a hospital in the western city of Herat.

Abdul Salam Zaeef claimed British and US jets were involved in the raid.

He said: "More than 100 were martyred. Patients and doctors were killed.

"American planes are targeting the Afghan people to punish the Afghan nation for having chosen an Islamic government."

Britain flatly denied its jets were involved in any such raid. A Pentagon spokesman said: "I put as much credibility in this Taliban report as others that have been proven wrong."

The Taliban also claimed America is using chemical and biological weapons, an accusation dismissed by the Pentagon as "absolutely not true".

America denied further claims from the Afghan regime that they had shot down two US helicopters.

Taliban leaders now say 1000 civilians have died since air strikes began. Experts believe they are making such claims to turn more moderate Moslems against the western allies.

In a statement from his secret hideout, Mullah Omar, supreme leader of the regime, said yesterday: "Moslems all over the world should continue their movements for their defence.

''Jihad fought with sword, tongue and pen is all jihad. Death is death and it must come one day.''

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw vowed to rebuild Afghanistan after the Taliban are defeated.

And he said the west had allowed bin Laden to flourish there by ignoring the country in the 1980s.

Straw said: "Terrorists are strong-est where states are weakest. Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda found safe havens in places where government and society have collapsed."

In a speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, Straw said the rebuilding will take years and cost billions.

And he warned: "If we do not bear the cost, we will pay in more terrorist atrocities, more lives lost and more economies disrupted."

Straw believes the first 100 days of a new government will be crucial to making Afghans believe it can work.

He said UN peacekeepers will be needed for years to come, but Afghans should have the final say in who runs their country.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 23, 2001
Words:946
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