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War On Terror: Bunker-busters on way to caves and hide-outs.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld last night warned Taliban leaders hiding in caves and underground that 'bunker-busting' bombs were being used in the air strikes on Afghanistan.

It was the first time the US had discussed directly the kind of high-tech weaponry being launched against Afghan positions from the squadrons of B1, B2 and B52 bombers, and strike aircraft.

But Mr Rumsfeld warned the Taliban's air defences had not been completely destroyed and still posed a threat to US planes flying over the country.

'The B1s, the B2s, the B52s, have dropped the bunker-busters and earth penetrators,' said Mr Rumsfeld.

The earth-penetrating missiles can burrow 20ft into the ground before exploding, meaning underground bunkers are not safe from the air strikes.

Some carry as much as up to 5,000 lb of explosives, which Mr Rumsfeld also acknowledged were being used.

Mr Rumsfeld added that where US had intelligence or information about where caves and bunkers were, they were on the list of targets.

'We have targeted them. I have seen several examples where there were enormous secondary explosions that, in some cases, went on for hours,' he said.

He also confirmed Taliban ground forces had been among the targets being hit by US pilots and Cruise missiles.

'The US is, as we have said, targeting al Qaida and Taliban military capabilities,' he said.

Military planners are using intelligence from the opposition Northern Alliance forces to locate Taliban ground forces and command centres.

'We have been going after military installations,' he said.

'To the extent we have information we have been attempting to deal with concentrations of military abilities. To the extent that they have been done in a way which advantaged military forces on the ground, all the better.'

But he acknowledged: 'We have to acknowledge the reality that there is still an air threat to the United States. We have been attempting to redress that.'

And he refused to confirm if Osama bin Laden had attempted to obtain chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, as has been claimed.

But Mr Rumsfeld added: 'Needless to say if we had intelligence that led us to believe that we had got co-ordinates on an area where terrorists or Taliban or al Qaida had been or are engaged in weapons of mass destruction, we'd certainly wish to do something about that.'

CAPTION(S):

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (right) with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen Richard Myers rumsfeld
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 12, 2001
Words:405
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