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DOHA Oct 18 (NNI): United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has told the Middle East's independent al-Jazeera television network that US military strikes in Afghanistan are targeted at terrorists, not any religion or race.
In an interview broadcast, Mr. Rumsfeld told the Qatar-based satellite service coalition forces are taking great care to avoid civilian casualties during the air raids on Taleban military targets and al-Qaida terrorist training camps.
He said there is a risk of unintended casualties when large amounts of ammunition are flying around. However, he also explained that civilian deaths blamed on the air strikes could be caused by Taleban anti-aircraft fire falling back to the ground as well as the country's ongoing civil war.
The Pentagon chief again expressed regret for one instance where the Bush administration believes U.S. munitions went astray and may have killed four people.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States is very concerned about humanitarian issues, noting that Afghanistan is receiving nearly a half-billion dollars in food aid in addition to thousands of rations being dropped from U.S. military planes.
The defense secretary stressed that the U.S. military is acting in self-defense in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. He said the United States is not seeking to occupy any country or defeat any nation. He said the United States supports those in Afghanistan who want to see the al-Qaida network and its supporters gone.
He noted that not all factions of the Taleban support suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden's network, just as many Afghans do not support the Taleban.ŚNNI
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