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Mintier: Airstrikes most intense yet



(CNN) -- U.S.-led forces on Thursday unloaded their most intense air strikes on Afghanistan since the campaign began. Kabul and Kandahar were two cities that reportedly bore the brunt of the attacks. CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier filed an overview on the developments from Islamabad, Pakistan.

MINTIER: What we hear from our sources inside Afghanistan is that (the airstrikes were) indeed intense, especially in Kandahar. We did see some pictures coming out via videophone of people departing the city with basic belongings. Nothing like what we've seen in the past.

Apparently there were more than 30 explosions in the center of the city including strikes on the airfield and other locations there. Supposedly, an ammunition dump was also hit in Kandahar, which resulted in secondary explosions, which sent ammunition screaming through downtown parts of Kandahar.

So the pictures often speak more than some of the information we get and looking at those images, even though they're jerky and fuzzy, of the people leaving Kandahar, obviously it's a stark contrast of what the scene was yesterday when supposedly the market was open in downtown Kandahar, a stark difference in the video images, at least of what the situation is on the ground.

CNN: Tom, can you give us a comparison from your past experience of this -- the pictures of these people fleeing?

MINTIER: It is a chaotic situation at best when your home and your office and your neighborhood is facing a heavy bombardment. You know, while the Pentagon says that they are targeting only military targets, you have to realize that there's a good possibility that in a lot of the neighborhoods may be military targets that basically are being hit at the same time. So while the planters try to not go after residential neighborhoods and areas like that, there are a lot of outposts, I'm sure, that the Taliban are using that are extremely close to residential areas.

CNN: That's right and aid workers are saying as many as 100,000 to a million people could be displaced by these latest airstrikes.

I'm wondering if you're also hearing anything about U.S. troops now basing in Pakistan.

MINTIER: That was a big story in the local papers today, at least one newspaper reporting that four airfields have been cleared for U.S. military operations, both transport planes, helicopters and troops.

Now the government would not confirm this story, but they would say that part of what is being offered by Pakistan to the United States was the clearance of their airspace, intelligence and logistical support, saying that this may fall in the logistical category, but not going any further than that, saying that they couldn't confirm the story. But if there are logistic operations going on, this indeed did not mean that there are offensive operations being conducted from Pakistani soil -- something that was said to be a last resort, putting actual personnel on the ground here in Pakistan.

They were very reluctant to say anything about that, saying that this goes into the operational details. This goes into security arrangements, and they weren't going to comment on anything that might involve tactics or operations.

(In a later report, Mintier talked about a news conference held by the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan.)

MINTIER: (On Thursday), we have heard from the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan. You have to remember this is their only voice outside of the borders of Afghanistan. They used to have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, but before the strikes even began, those locations were closed down. Pakistan has decided to allow this embassy to remain open as a way of funneling food aid in to the Afghan people and the possibility of putting an end to this diplomatically. Should that happen, it would probably come through the embassy here, so that's why they're allowing the embassy to stay open.

We're hearing from them now daily with the ambassador holding a press conference at the front door of the embassy. This one today did not last very long, provided few details but a lot of stinging criticism of the United States and the Pentagon, accusing the Pentagon of lying when it says that they're targeting military installations and not any other civilian targets. Here's on excerpt from the conference:

ABDUL SALAM ZAEEF, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan (through translator): In the past days of American air raids, more than 70 civilians have been martyred in different parts of our country. The number is increasing with the passage of time. This is the gift of America to the defenseless people of Afghanistan. It is in a time the Pentagon is lying to the world that it is not targeting civilians. We tell White House administration, 'Your atrocities, your weapons and your hypocrisy will not weaken the morale of the Afghans. All the super powers have tested our strong determination and our sentiments for sacrifice, independence and faith.'

MINTIER: While the ambassador talked about the number of civilians hit, he made no mention of what the military casualties have been or what has been hit or what has not, saying that only four houses were hit in both Kandahar and Kabul.



 
 
 
 


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