The United States, backed militarily by Britain, has launched missiles against terrorist targets inside Afghanistan in an operation also involving air-strikes by bombers and fighters. The raids are being accompanied by airdrops of U.S. humanitarian aid for the Afghan people.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. armed forces, General Richard Myers, says 15 U.S. long-range bombers joined by 25 strike aircraft, both land and sea-based, took part in the first strikes. In addition, U.S. and British vessels launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the initial targets included Taleban aircraft and air defense sites, command facilities and critical terrorist sites. He says it is too early to judge the success of the missions, but he says the effort will continue until the United States and its allies are satisfied terrorist assets in Afghanistan are destroyed.

"The world stands united in this effort," he said. "It is not about a religion, an individual terrorist, or a country. Our partners in this effort represent nations and peoples of all cultures, religions, and races. We share the belief that terrorism is a cancer on the human condition, and we intend to oppose it wherever it is."

To underscore the Bush administration's repeated assurance that U.S. action is not aimed against the Afghan people, Mr. Rumsfeld says cargo aircraft have begun air-dropping food, medicine, and other relief supplies into remote parts of the country.

He also confirms that U.S. aircraft are dropping leaflets and making broadcasts to explain the intent of the anti-terrorist strikes to the Afghan people.