Pentagon Sterilized After Anthrax Found

WASHINGTON/KABUL, Pakistan -- U.S. aircraft maintained their relentless assault on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on Monday as traces of anthrax showed up at the Pentagon, one of the targets of the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the United States that plunged the world into crisis.

With the military onslaught on Afghanistan in its fifth week, U.S. warplanes returned to blast targets around Kabul and on Taliban front lines to the north.

Rockets fired from U.S. aircraft struck a hotel and vehicle used by Taliban fighters in Kabul, littering the street with wreckage and body parts.

U.S. warplanes pounded Taliban lines north of the Afghan capital as well as key cities in the south and west, the Pakistani-based Afghan Islamic Press agency reported.

In Pakistan, an Islamic party said thousands more of its pro-Taliban supporters armed with rocket launchers and swords had crossed into Afghanistan to wage jihad, or holy war, against the United States, and many more were waiting to go.

On the U.S. home front, the Pentagon joined the White House, the CIA, Congress, the Supreme Court and other government buildings where mail facilities and offices have been contaminated with anthrax.

Traces of the germ warfare weapon were found at a Pentagon post office, but the facility was decontaminated over the weekend and no further signs of the potentially deadly spores were found, a spokesman said.

The deadly agent has infected at least 17 Americans, killing four of them, and contaminated a growing number of government and media buildings as well as mail facilities in several states.

It was not immediately clear whether the anthrax spores originated at the Pentagon, where 189 people were killed on Sept. 11 when a hijacked airliner was rammed into the building, or from mail received from another facility.

In Afghanistan, Taliban leaders continued to express defiance in the face of a U.S. air assault that shows no sign of slackening, even as winter and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approach.

"We are preparing for a long war," Education Minister and top spokesman Amir Khan Muttaqi told a news conference, saying the United States was too soft to take on the Taliban at close quarters.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the Taliban had asked it to take the body of an American back to Pakistan. It said it was trying to verify the identity of the man.

The Afghan Islamic Press agency quoted Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef as saying an American had died in custody on Sunday after being arrested near Kandahar. Zaeef said he was suspected of spying.

Elsewhere, the son of the leader of one group of Pakistanis who have been pressing the Taliban to let them fight alongside them said that thousands had already crossed into Afghanistan.

"The convoys are going, convoys of about 1,500 people each day," said Fazlullah, the son of firebrand Islamic leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad, adding the Taliban had given permission for them to cross from Pakistan's lawless border tribal areas.