After days of intense round-the-clock bombing of Taliban positions by U.S. warplanes, Afghanistan’s opposition forces said late last week they had finally entered the strategic northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. If the Northern Alliance can successfully hold the city, it would give the U.S. access to an airbase and allow it to amass ground troops in preparation for attacks on Taliban strongholds in the south. American bombers also pounded targets around Kabul and Kandahar and introduced the Daisy Cutter, a massive 15,000-lb. bomb, into a campaign that, after six weeks, appeared at last to be taking its toll on the Taliban.
A victory at Mazar-i-Sharif was badly needed by the Pentagon, which has been heavily criticized over its inability to dislodge the Taliban or capture terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. In a satellite address to a conference of Eastern European leaders in Warsaw, George W. Bush warned that bin Laden must be stopped before he
develops a crude nuclear weapon. Officials also believe he is trying to develop germ-warfare capabilities even as the U.S. struggles to contain the spread of anthrax, which has killed four people and infected at least 13 others. While the anthrax attacks appear to have stopped, investigators were hunting for the perpetrators, whom they speculate may have died after becoming infected. The FBI was looking into suspicious deaths in New Jersey, where two of the letters came from, in hopes of identifying the killer.
The U.S. also took a major step towards blocking the flow of money to bin Laden’s AlQaeda network. Officials believe operators of currency exchanges known as hawalas, which are
used by Somali residents in 40 countries to send money home to relatives, are skimming funds for Al-Qaeda. One hawala under suspicion, Barakaat North America Inc., has offices in Ottawa and Dorchester, Mass. U.S. officials suspect it is tied to AI-Barakaat-a conglomerate thought to have links to bin Laden. The Ottawa branch, which operates out of a grocery store, transfers up to $90,000 a month. But Sharif Abdalla, who runs the store, dismissed allegations of impropriety, saying hawalas are needed because the Somali banking system has been destroyed by war. “If you send money to your mom, is your mom a terrorist?” he asked. “I don’t know Al-Qaeda.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.