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U.S. warplanes carpet-bomb Taliban lines

Smoke from an explosion rises in front of the village of Sarghich, a Taliban controlled area close to Bagram airport north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday.  

NEAR BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Heavy bombers and Navy jets pounded battle lines Wednesday between Taliban and opposition Northern Alliance troops in the U.S.-led effort to decimate and demoralize the dug-in Taliban forces. (Full story)

In addition to precision strikes by more than 50 jets, about a half-dozen Air Force B-1s and B-52s dropped hundreds of unguided bombs, an operation also known as carpet-bombing.

"Oftentimes, if a target presents itself, either in an engagement zone or when directed, it's possible to release an entire load of bombs at once," Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, Pentagon spokesman in Washington, told reporters.

The Pentagon's target map shows that U.S. bombing has almost completely shifted to areas around two Taliban strongholds: the strategic northern crossroads of Mazar-e Sharif and the Afghan capital, Kabul, which the United States would like to see fall soon to the Northern Alliance.

However, the U.S. military denied that the strikes -- the most dramatic witnessed in days -- indicated a major shift in the allied military campaign.

Stufflebeem said U.S. forces have severely disrupted the Taliban's lines of communications to the point that military leaders in Afghanistan probably don't even know how many troops they have lost.

Meanwhile, Northern Alliance commanders want the U.S.-led strikes to continue through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is to begin around November 17. And an Alliance spokesman said the rebels are in desperate need of military, food and logistical aid. (Full story)

The U.S.-led coalition launched its offensive October 7 after the ruling Taliban refused to hand over members of the al Qaeda terror network, which is suspected of orchestrating the September 11 attacks in the United States that killed nearly 5,000 people.

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• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Wednesday announced the formation of a task force to track terrorism in the United States. Ashcroft said the task force would help coordinate efforts to prevent terrorists from entering the country, and to deport those convicted of being members of or supporting terrorist groups.

• The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a no-fly zone over downtown Chicago. The ban applies to certain private planes, and is meant to protect the Sears Tower -- now the tallest building in the United States, since the attacks on the World Trade Center. (Full story)

• CNN's Nic Robertson, after touring damaged areas of Kandahar, reported there was evidence that the Taliban were hiding their ordnance under trees in the hills around the city. He also said there appeared to be no weakening of civilian support for the Taliban. (Full story)

• The United States has asked Turkey, a NATO member, to begin sending military personnel to Afghanistan, Turkish military sources told CNN on Wednesday. (Full story)

• U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to travel to Moscow on Friday and then to Central Asia to discuss the war on terrorism, the Pentagon said Wednesday. On Tuesday, Rumsfeld said that the United States has "a modest amount of ground troops" in Afghanistan to help coordinate the air campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda targets.

• Canada's solicitor general says information from Canadian intelligence agencies helped lead the United States to suspect that another terror attack could be imminent. (Full story)

• With Monday's warning about possible new terrorist activity in mind, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it is restricting flights near New York's Yankee Stadium during this week's World Series. Flight activity also was restricted around nuclear sites. (Full story)

• Syria's president said Wednesday that terrorism takes the form of networks and can only be defeated by countries working together. "Terrorism ... has not a head -- whether state or individual," said Bashar al-Assad, after a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Full story)

• British passenger planes are being fitted with bulletproof cockpit doors for the first time. Virgin Atlantic Airways is installing armor-plated doors on its fleet of 30 jets, and British Airways is reinforcing the exteriors of cockpit doors on its 340 planes. (Full story)

• U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that the allied coalition is committed "for as long as it takes" to oust the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. (Full story)

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• Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced a new crackdown on security at U.S. airports, including more stringent passenger and bag searches. Mineta said there have been deficiencies in security screening since September 11, and the aviation industry must show improvement "right away." (Full story)

• American Airlines, the world's largest airline, announced that it has secured the cockpits of its entire fleet of jet aircraft. American said the new locking devices prevent intruders from accessing the cockpit by securing it from the inside.


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