Friday, September 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Two US Generals can order shooting down of airliners
By Sue Pleming

Washington, September 27
Two mid-level US Air Force Generals have the power to order the shooting down of commercial airliners, without first getting clearance from the President, if the planes threaten US cities, a defence official said today.

“The authority to take such action has been pushed down to a lower level but this decision will only be taken in incredibly exceptional circumstances,” said the defence official, who asked not to be named.

He said the decision was taken as part of a change in rules of engagement regarding civilian aircraft following the September 11 attacks by hijacked U.S. passenger planes that left more than 7,000 persons dead or missing.

Before the devastating attacks on New York and Washington, there were no formal rules on how the military should deal with an airliner hijacked over the USA that was flown by pilots essentially on a suicide mission.

The defence official declined to outline a scenario when such drastic action would be taken, saying this would give fodder to potential attackers, but he stressed the decision would never be taken lightly.

“It would only be done when there is a threat of loss of life or a great threat to national security,” he said. He added that the Generals would always try to get hold of the President before taking such a dire step but that when seconds mattered, they would take the decision themselves.

The New York Times reported on Thursday the two Generals authorised to make such decisions were Major Gen. Larry Arnold, a two-star officer at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, with authority for the continental United States, and Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, a three-star officer at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, with the authority for Alaska. Reuters


Missing missiles worry USA

Islamabad, September 27
As US forces prepare for a possible onslaught on Afghanistan, which is sheltering Osama bin Laden , the key suspect in the September 11 terrorist strikes on New York and Washington, a major cause of concern for the USA is the whereabouts of 80 Stinger missiles, believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.

The News reported today that the USA and Pakistan had shared intelligence on the whereabouts of these Stinger missiles that were believed to be in the possession of the Taliban forces.

“The two sides have exchanged information on the possible places and people where the Stingers in the Taliban-ruled areas may be,” the newspaper quoted sources.

“The Stingers are a potentially dangerous source of strike capability against any US warplanes or helicopters that may be used in the coming days and weeks (in likely strikes against Afghanistan), hence the urgency to be sure (on the whereabouts of the missiles),’’ the sources told The News.

The USA is not now contemplating joint military operations with Russia in the war on terrorism but such cooperation remains an option for the future, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said.

Returning to Washington early today after a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels, he said US cooperation with Russia was “more important than ever” since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon two weeks ago that left nearly 7,000 persons dead or missing.

A private discussion on the fringes of the NATO meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov was almost entirely about counter-terrorism efforts “and clearly they (Russians) were ready to offer all kinds of help, advice, cooperation,” Wolfowitz said.

Possible joint NATO-Russian operations were “ahead of where we are, but they are certainly not closed” as an option, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this week offered Washington broad anti-terrorism support, including opening Russian air space to relief missions, taking part in search-and-rescue operations and arming forces opposed to the hard-line Islamic Taliban group that controls most of Afghanistan. UNI, Reuters

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