US troops have begun a new offensive to hunt Taliban and al-Qaida militants through the harsh Afghan winter, aiming to sap their strength ahead of planned spring elections, the US military said Saturday. \nUS Army spokesman Major Mark McCann said Operation Lightning Freedom was initiated after Tuesday's inauguration of Hamid Karzai as president. \nHe said he didn't know exactly when the operation began and gave no details of any specific moves against militant targets. \n``It's going on throughout the country of Afghanistan,'' McCann told a news conference. \n``It's designed basically to search out and destroy the remaining remnants of Taliban forces who traditionally we believe go to ground during the winter months.'' \nMajor General Eric Olson, the No. 2 US commander here, told reporters last month that the operation would include a redeployment to tighten security on the border with Pakistan and raids by special forces to snatch rebel leaders. \nProtecting Afghanistan's young democracy has become the most urgent priority for US commanders frustrated by their failure to capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who disappeared here after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US. \nThe new military drive, which involves the entire 18,000-strong US-led force here, is also aimed at persuading militants to take up an offer of amnesty from the US military and the Afghan government. \nLightning Freedom represents a new phase, rather than any shift in strategy, and commanders will continue with ``a mixing of combat operations with humanitarian-type operations,'' the spokesman said. \nHowever, the US has several thousand more troops strung out across the south and east, where insurgents are strongest, compared with last winter, and commanders have said they will maintain their forces at current strength at least until after the parliamentary elections. \nMcCann said the military will also help Afghan security forces combat the country's booming drug industry, by sharing intelligence, ferrying counter-narcotics units to and from raids, and rescuing them if they get into serious trouble. Commanders have said they will maintain their forces at current strength at least until the elections. In previous winters, the US military has mobilized one or two battalions for sweeps of particular areas, an approach which brought few results.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies