Today's Developments, 10/17

Military Action:

• The United States has positioned special operations forces for another kind of assault on terrorism following several days of bombing against the Taliban military, defense officials said.

• Aided by U.S. bombing, Afghan opposition forces closed in on the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. U.S. jets struck fuel dumps in Kabul, setting off a huge fire, and the Taliban claimed U.S. planes hit two trucks, killing seven civilians trying to flee.

• The Taliban foreign minister asked that the U.S. bombing campaign be slowed down so moderates in the Afghan leadership can reconsider their refusal to hand over Usama bin Laden, a Western diplomatic source said. 

• The Pentagon acknowledged that U.S. bombs struck two International Red Cross warehouses in Kabul and said it had suspected the Taliban were using depots in that area to store military supplies. 

• Australian Prime Minister John Howard says his country will begin deploying troops and military hardware to the Persian Gulf over the next two weeks to join the U.S.-led coalition. 


• Prime Minister Tony Blair has traveled extensively to help build an anti-terrorism coalition, but some members of his own Labor Party are questioning the wisdom of British involvement in U.S.-led military strikes against Afghanistan. 

• China has executed two accused Muslim separatists, a state newspaper reported. The report comes as Beijing asks for greater understanding for its fight against alleged terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks.

• In India, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that the United States and India stand "shoulder to shoulder against terrorism" and strongly condemned terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals in Indian-held Kashmir. 

• Israel banned Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from using Gaza international airport in a first step in a series of retaliatory measures for the assassination of a far-right cabinet minister. 

• The Taliban's leader is reportedly trying to rally his fighters. Mullah Mohammed Omar told his commanders that "God Almighty will defeat the great infidel," the Afghan Islamic Press reported.

• The U.S. and British embassies were shut down in Sarajevo, capital of the partially Muslim Balkan state of Bosnia, after receiving threats, officials said. 

The Anthrax Scare:

• The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said that preliminary tests indicate that the anthrax sent to New York and Florida are of the same strain. Further testing would be needed to determine if they're from the same source, however. It's not yet known if the Washington anthrax is of the same type as the other two samples.

• Twenty-three people in Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office have tested positive for exposure to anthrax, along with five law enforcement officers. The House of Representatives is shutting down through the weekend, to let crews search for signs of the bacteria, but the Senate is functioning. 

• Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who's office is adjacent to Dachle's, said three of his aides have tested positive for exposure to anthrax. 

• Although the strain of anthrax that showed up in Daschle’s office has been described as powerful, experts said it is "sensitive to all antibiotics." 

• The midtown Manhattan office of Governor George Pataki showed the presence of anthrax in an initial test, the governor announced. No workers were known to be exposed, but the offices were closed through the weekend.

• Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said city officials have received a “specific threat” of a possible anthrax attack on the city.

• Growing alarm at the threat of anthrax disrupted postal service from Hong Kong to Italy on, forced an Austrian jet to turn back and led to several detentions in Europe as authorities scrambled to ensure public safety. 

• The letter that infected a Florida tabloid publishing office was probably destroyed when it was burned with other trash, the FBI said.

• The strain of anthrax in a letter sent to Daschle's office is similar to spores that killed an editor in Florida, and letters sent to Daschle and Tom Brokaw both included Islamic references and a warning the envelope contained anthrax, senior government officials told The Washington Post.


• Pediatricians are warning that the nation's health-care system is ill-prepared to treat child victims of a large-scale bioterrorism attack. 

• U.S. Health and Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said President Bush would request on an additional $1.5 billion to combat bioterrorism, a six-fold increase of spending in fiscal 2001.


• A disappointing assessment of the economy and news that anthrax has been found on Capitol Hill squelched a surge of optimism on Wall Street and gave the stock market its worst day in more than three weeks.

The Home Front:

• Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan says President Bush should make public the evidence that Usama bin Laden was involved in the terrorist attacks. 

• Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stressed in an interview broadcast in Arabic to the Middle East that the United States was not making war on any religion, race or country in its bombing of Afghanistan. 

• A White House spokesman said President Bush will have no problem overseeing the war while he's out of the country. Bush will meet with Asian-Pacific leaders at an economic summit and seek their support for the war on terrorism.  

• A federal investigation of airport security screeners is showing more problems. Government investigators have found undocumented workers screening passengers and some workers failed their annual tests. 

• Number of people listed as missing at the World Trade Center drops to 4,613, with 456 bodies recovered and 404 of those identified. 

 The Associated Press contributed to this report