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Bill Hemmer: Marine mission called success

CNN's Bill Hemmer
CNN's Bill Hemmer  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- More Taliban and al Qaeda detainees have arrived at Kandahar International Airport as about 200 Marines returned from a search of a compound that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar may have once occupied.

CNN Correspondent Bill Hemmer filed the following report from the Marine encampment at the Kandahar airport:

HEMMER: Basically in Helmand province, which is west and north of where we are in Kandahar, two military operations [were] under way really in the last couple of days.

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First of all [is] near Baghran, a city in the northern part of the province where many think Mullah Mohammed Omar, may be taking refuge. Special Forces are in concert right now working with Afghan troops on the ground.

Now south of there by about 100 miles in the same Helmand province the Marines carried out their mission, about a 30-hour mission. We saw the Marines come back earlier this morning, about 4:30 they showed up here.

The Marines say this mission was designed to pick up more intelligence, possibly computer disks and other items found in a rather large compound. Right now, they say they'll try and put those pieces together again. Several hundred Marines went. All came back. They described the situation there as going well but uneventful -- no hostile fire, no combat involved.

Also, the compound that's being discussed here [is] a large compound, 14 different buildings involved, described as an al Qaeda -- al Qaeda, not a Taliban complex like many had thought. ... They said that if Mullah Mohammed Omar was there, certainly they would apprehend him, grab him and bring him back here to Kandahar. However, he obviously was not there.

The Marines went with a lot of fire power too, at least 12 Humvees, at least six light armored vehicles. The U.S. forces safely returned under the cover of darkness last night to the Kandahar International Airport and did not encounter any enemy forces.

In all, [the Marines] have conducted about a dozen [operations] over the past month; this was by far the largest, again involving several hundred Marines.

Quickly, let's talk about the detainees right now. Two hundred is the number right now, [with] 11 more brought in last night from northern Afghanistan. Of the 11, six were brought in by stretcher, and [we're] starting to get more details on a daily basis about the backgrounds and identities of some detainees, a high secure area here in Kandahar.

We are told that some of the detainees attended schools and universities in the United States and at least one was born in the U.S. One was described [as being] born in the state of Louisiana [and] said to have left the U.S. at a young age and possibly and probably headed for Saudi Arabia. He is said to be in his 20s.

One other note from Kandahar is that just about 90 minutes ago we saw a Super Stallion, a CH-53 helicopter. The helicopter went down in a hard landing late Saturday.

The crew was brought back here after that hard landing. They are safe and OK. The Marine engineers went out, worked on [the helicopter], got it working and flying again, and they brought it back here a short time ago. The Marines, as always, say this is a safe and secure rescue mission complete here in southern Afghanistan.




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