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Mike Chinoy: C-130s not fired on

CNN's Mike Chinoy
CNN's Mike Chinoy  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Two U.S. military C-130 transport planes originally believed to have come under fire from surface-to-air missiles in separate incidents were not attacked, U.S. officials said Tuesday after a further analysis of information.

According to Marines Maj. Ralph Mills, with the U.S. Central Command in Florida, the muzzle flashes seen coming from the ground are now thought to have been part of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

CNN's Mike Chinoy is based at the U.S. Marine camp in Kandahar. He filed this report.

CHINOY: What the U.S. Marines here are saying is that those two C-130 planes saw flashes on the ground, and acted as if they were being fired on, which of course, when you're flying over Afghanistan in the dead of night, is the prudent thing to do.

The pilot did see flashes coming from the ground. Their initial reaction was that it might well be Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. The Taliban certainly have a number of Stingers in their possession and there are Taliban and al Qaeda fighters still at large in the area.

The indications now are that it might have been Afghans just firing off weapons marking the Eid festival that comes at the end of Ramadan.

In any event, the C-130 did take evasive action and fired flares just to be safe. Of course, nothing happened to it. But this episode does underscore the continuing danger that is presented to the Marines. They are flying a dozen or more C-130 flights in and out of Kandahar every night, and all the flying is done at night. Both the helicopters and the transport planes don't want to present any kind of easy target because they know there is danger out there.

CNN: Any updates on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar this morning?

CHINOY: I asked the Marines about that; they say they don't have anything more to add. There were reports he was holed up somewhere in this part of Afghanistan and that the local Afghan authorities are now chasing him. The U.S. Marines are not playing any role in that.

The focus here today at Kandahar airport has been on getting the new detention center ready. A couple of hundred yards from where I'm standing is a corrugated iron shed surrounded by three layers of barbed wire, and it will be guarded by Marines both inside and outside.

It's expected to hold between 100 and 300 al Qaeda fighters who have been detained or surrendered during the fighting at Tora Bora. We're told that some of those detainees may arrive as early as Tuesday night.

The Marines are eager to ensure that there's no repeat of that bloody prison uprising that Taliban and al Qaeda forces staged in Mazar-e Sharif a few weeks ago. The detainees here will have their hands and feet bound when they arrive; they'll be searched very thoroughly; they'll be segregated. They will receive treatment that is standard for prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

There is an eight-member FBI team here to question those prisoners. The FBI tells us that they're most interested in learning anything they can about future al Qaeda terrorist acts planned against American targets. The FBI agents are also looking for any evidence of past al Qaeda attacks -- not only on the World Trade Center, but the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in the waters off Yemen, and the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well.


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