The Los Angeles Timesleads with yesterday's attack by armed assailants on a church in Pakistan. Sixteen churchgoers were killed. USA Todayleads with an anonymous Pentagon source saying that the U.S. might establish a base in Northern Alliance-held Afghanistan. The base could house a few hundred American commandos, and might also be used to launch helicopter strikes. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with health officials’ warning that some anthrax letters may still be in the mail. The Journal also notes that because traces of anthrax were found at the Supreme Court, our country’s nine most distinguished judges are currently taking doxycycline, this week’s antibiotic of choice, since (the Post says) it’s "just as effective as Cipro and less apt to cause side effects." (Context, please: If doxycycline is so much better, why did the FDA wait until 10 days ago to approve it for anthrax treatment?) The New York Timesand Washington Postboth lead with news summaries of the air campaign over Afghanistan.
The NYT’s lead emphasizes that coordination between U.S. and anti-Taliban forces is improving. One result: U.S. planes struck Taliban artillery that had been threatening Northern Alliance supply lines. The Post focuses on news that the U.S. has "expanded" its airstrikes to include a new locale: Taliban positions near the Tajikistan border—the one Taliban stronghold that had yet to be bombed. (The WP says in the fifth graph that those "expanded" strikes consisted of two bombs. Both missed.) The strikes, said a local Northern Alliance commander, "are not effective." In total, though, yesterday’s bombings throughout Afghanistan were the heaviest yet. That fact seemed to cheer up the Northern Alliance’s foreign minister: "If yesterday's type of bombing becomes standard, the objective of eradicating terrorism could be achieved much quicker." The papers also note that U.S. bombs killed about a dozen civilian yesterday in Kabul.
The attack on the church occurred in the city of Bahawalpur, which is also the headquarters of an Islamic extremist group that the U.S. has listed as a terrorist organization. In other Pakistan unrest news, a bomb exploded in another Pakistani city, Quetta, killing three and injuring 20. Nobody claimed responsibility for either attack. Finally, thousands of armed Taliban supporters in Pakistan continued to gather near the Afghan border, eager to cross and help their comrades. They held off after their leader supposedly spoke with the Taliban who told them, essentially, thanks for the offer, but we don’t need help at the moment.
The NYT fronts a few American officials' contention that Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, had longstanding links with al-Qaida. At one point, the ISI even used al-Qaida military camps to train guerrillas fighting against India. The Times says that U.S. security officials were so worried about links between the two groups that the Secret Service tried to overrule a visit to Pakistan by then President Clinton. (Air Force One came anyway—but without the president. He arrived soon after in a small plane.)
The WP off-leads with confirmation that a New Jersey postal worker has developed inhalation anthrax. The mail handler worked at a distribution center that processed the anthrax-tainted letters sent to Sen. Daschle and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. No further suspected anthrax cases were reported over the weekend.
The WP reports below the fold that U.S. diplomats spent three years trying to get the Taliban to turn over Osama Bin Laden, right up until Sept. 11. "I would say, 'Hey, give up bin Laden,' and they would say, 'No. . . . Show us the evidence,' " recounts one mid-level State Department official, who was once sitting on his sun deck when Mullah Omar rung. (They spoke for 45 minutes.) A few of the U.S. negotiators told the WP that they now believe the Taliban were messing around with them and never intended to hand over Bin Laden. But some experts disagree, saying that the U.S. wasn’t really listening. The Taliban “thought they were signaling us subtly, and we don't do signals,” one former CIA official said.
The NYT off-leads with news that Israel—under "intense" U.S. pressure—has pulled troops out of Bethlehem and the surrounding area. During Israel's occupation of the town, which came in response to the murder of Israel's tourism minister, nearly 20 Palestinians were killed. Meanwhile, yesterday, Palestinian gunmen attacked civilians in an Israeli town, killing four and wounding 30.
In one sign of eroding faith in the airstrikes, the Post (in an online column) quotes a source saying, "The bombing has to stop." The quote isn’t surprising, but the source is: He’s a military planner at CENTCOM, the Pentagon command coordinating the airstrikes.