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UK says al Qaeda terror camps 'destroyed'

Oman exercies
Britain is yet to decide if it will increase its contribution to the campaign  

LONDON, England -- Nine training camps belonging to the al Qaeda group have been destroyed in Afghanistan, Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has said.

U.S. airstrikes had destroyed the camps and severely damaged nine airfields and 24 military barracks, Hoon said on Tuesday.

"We believe that nine al Qaeda camps were occupied before the start of the military operation. I can now tell you that we have successfully put all these camps out of action."

He said bombardments continued to put the ruling Taliban under pressure, weakening their ability to withstand any advances by the opposition Northern Alliance.

He also said the Taliban air force was "effectively no more."

Hoon said Britain had yet to decide about further contributions to the U.S.-led military effort in Afghanistan.

"We are in the process of looking at the equipment and the people who are engaged on exercise Saif Sarrea (in Oman) with a view to deciding which of those we will need to retain in or around the theater to support future operations, but no decision has yet been taken about which those will be," Hoon told a news conference.

British media had speculated that Britain would increase its contribution to the military campaign.

Hoon said no time limit has been placed on the campaign, and that the primary objective of bringing Osama bin Laden to account for the September 11 attacks remained.

He also said it was impossible to say precisely how many civilian casualties there had been in Afghanistan "if indeed there have been any" as he doubted the Taliban claims of civilian deaths.


• Ministry of Defence
• MoD: Exercies in Oman

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