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Chance, Mintier: U.S. airstrikes resume

Matthew Chance
Matthew Chance  

CNN Correspondent Matthew Chance is in northern Afghanistan, focusing on the fighting there. CNN's London Bureau Chief Tom Mintier is in neighboring Islamabad, Pakistan. Both reporters spoke with CNN's Martin Savidge Saturday about the battle in Afghanistan.

MATTHEW CHANCE: Despite those reports last night of renewed bombardments over the cities across Afghanistan, Kandahar and also in Kabul, I can tell you we were standing on the front line of the Northern Alliance positions here about 25 kilometers, about 15 miles or so, north of Kabul, and it was a very quiet night indeed. (There were) none of the loud explosions that normally rumble on the horizon, or the lights that light up the skies over Kabul, perhaps a sign that the attacks on Kabul, at least, weren't as intensive as they have been in past nights.

What we did see on those front line positions, though, is a renewed bombardment by forces of the Northern Alliance against what they said were Taliban front lines. No sign, though, at this stage, Martin, about any -- of any movement of the Northern Alliance forces out of their trenches towards deeper into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, no sign of any movement towards Kabul.

There have been reports, though, elsewhere across northern Afghanistan, conflicting reports about renewed fighting, conflicting reports about exactly who is in control of what. Both sides, for instance, the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, have claimed this week that they are in control of the northern province of Ghor, there are also reports of gains by the Northern Alliance, denied by the Taliban, around the strategic northern city of Mazar-i Sharif.

The problem is, of course, we're not able to get to those very remote areas and check out those stories ourself.

But for more on the latest airstrikes now in Afghanistan, we're going over to Tom Mintier. He's in the neighboring country of Pakistan.

Tom Mintier
Tom Mintier  

TOM MINTIER: Matthew, thank you very much. This morning, it started early after a respite on Friday. The raids on Kandahar started around 4 a.m., well before sunrise, and we were told they were quite heavy by the time the sun did come up, rather long, sustained, punishing airstrikes in Kandahar, hitting once again the airfield and another location in the center of town.

And for the first time, we heard of a new target, hitting the highway that goes out of Kandahar running northeast to Kabul.

Also in Kabul, some pictures from the hospital. We have no real idea how many people have been injured, either in Kandahar or in Kabul. We can only see these pictures and guess that there are large numbers of people that are making their way to the hospital after being injured by the collateral damage.

The Taliban says that 300 civilians have been killed so far in the airstrikes. They're not providing any information about military casualties.

Also overnight, there was an air drop of food for Afghanistan. It came from four C-17 military cargo transport planes from Germany. They put out 70 of the yellow packets of one-day rations over the air over Afghanistan, and then basically returned to their base in Germany.

Now, humanitarian agencies have been calling for a doubling up of the food supplies to be sent in overland from Iran and from Pakistan, trying to get the aid convoys of wheat and other things able to cross overland into Afghanistan through the Taliban lines. They say they don't want to leave this food simply on the border, but they want to find a way to get it to the displaced internally and make sure that they still have food.

You realize that Afghanistan was already suffering from three years of drought, so people in the remote areas had a difficult time accessing food anyway, brought -- even more so by these airstrikes on the central cities where populated areas are.

So we have heard in the last couple of days that a lot of people who had returned to the city have indeed turned around and have made their way out of the city as they come under attack -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE: Tom, the president of Pakistan, General Musharraf, has assured his people that these airstrikes would only last a couple of days. Yet now we're approaching one week. How is that going over there and how does he try to explain it?

MINTIER: Well, I think that was an optimistic view. I think it came very close to the beginning of this operation. He was briefed (about) when this would start, but I doubt if he was briefed on how long it would last, because I don't think anyone knows how long it would last.

You know, we heard President Bush say the other day that they have a second chance, that if they hand over Osama bin Laden, they might stop the bombing. Well, they didn't hand Osama bin Laden over, they didn't stop the bombing. It did pause for a bit on Friday, but now it is back in force over Afghanistan.


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