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On The Scene

Damage in a small town

CNN's Nic Robertson has been reporting from inside Afghanistan.  

KORAM, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Correspondent Nic Robertson was among a group of international journalists escorted Sunday to the village of Koram in eastern Afghanistan to view what the Taliban say is damage caused by U.S. airstrikes.

ROBERTSON: Afghan officials took us to a village about 60 miles west of Jalalabad. In that village they showed us houses that they say had been destroyed in a bombing raid. It was a village, high in the mountains, remote, difficult to get to. There were about 40 to 50 houses there, and about 90 percent of them were destroyed.

People were sifting through the rubble there; they said they were trying to find loved ones. trying to find property in those houses. People there told us this was just a simple rural community. They bridled at suggestions that this might have been a terrorist training camp or might have been viewed as a terrorist training camp. They insisted it was just a rural community.

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They showed us bomb fragments they said were from American bombs, and indeed, just 100 yards from the village (is) a large, unexploded bomb stuck in the hillside.

Later on the Taliban took us to the hospital Jalalabad where we saw about 17 people who were injured in that same bomb blast in that same village, we are told.

Now the Taliban said that some 200 people were killed in that blast. We had no independent verification of that. Certainly in the village itself, there were two dozen or so graves, but in the hospital we spoke to survivors and they talked about airplanes dropping bombs early in the morning. They talked about losing large numbers of loved ones from their families. One man told us he'd lost four of his children; another said he'd lost his wife, and another two children we saw in the hospital, doctors there told us that they were orphans.

The Taliban have also taken us to sites we've asked to go to. We asked to go to the airfield, knowing that this had been a site subject to air attacks.

We were shown a radar installation that had been hit, the Taliban said, by a cruise missile on the first night of attacks. The airport commander there told us that the airport there was now not operating, he said that there were no communications at the airport, that the runway was slightly damaged, but they didn't have any planes that they were able use for the runway. For right now, he said, the airport was out of action.

On the streets we've been able to get an insight into life here in the city of Jalalabad. Some stores are closed. We have seen a few people leaving town today, but the vast majority of stores here are open. There are people out on the streets going about their business as normal. We saw a lady this morning walking down the road, carrying a box of washing powder.

There's a lot of traffic on the road, too. There appears to be no problem at the fuel stations with people getting fuel. People are able to drive in and fill up vehicles at will.

There are, perhaps, fewer people around than would normal, but there is a sense of normality, not a sense of abject fear on the streets at this time.

CNN: Are your reports being critiqued by the Taliban? Are you limited in what you can say, or can you speak freely?

ROBERTSON: We can speak freely. What the Taliban have told us we must do is that whenever we leave the hotel, we must go out with an official representative of the government here. They say we're not free to roam around and go and dig up stories for ourselves. However, they have told us that we can visit any site that we choose to visit. We selected to visit the city's military airfield, and we expect to be going there in about an hour's time.

So, although there are no restrictions on what we say, and apparently there are no restrictions on where we can go, we do have to be accompanied by a government representative.


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