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John Vause: Vaccinations begin

John Vause
CNN Correspondent John Vause  

(CNN) -- The United Nations agency UNICEF is launching a program this week to vaccinate people against measles in Afghanistan, which it says is the disease most preventable by vaccine in the nation.

The interim government also reported Wednesday that the feared chief of the former Taliban regime's intelligence ministry was killed by a U.S. airstrike. CNN Correspondent John Vause filed this report from the Afghan capital of Kabul.

VAUSE: We're getting information from the deputy head of intelligence for the new interim government -- a man by the name of Abdullah Tawheedi. He tells CNN that the head of the intelligence under the Taliban regime, a man named Qari Ahmadullah, was killed in the last two or three days.

Tawheedi tells us that Ahmadullah was staying at the home of a local Taliban commander in the Khost province, which is in eastern Afghanistan. Tawheedi says that house was hit by U.S. bombs during one of the bombing campaigns, killing Ahmadullah. Tawheedi tells us that Ahmadullah's body was then identified and later buried in his hometown. As for the local commander he was staying with, we understand that he did, in fact, escape.

Of course, Ahmadullah was the head -- the feared head of the Taliban intelligence agency. He was notorious for his cruel torture methods, using cables to whip people as well as electric shocks.

We also have some lighter news out of Kabul today, some vaccinations by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, as well as other aid agencies, that have begun this week.

They're hoping to vaccinate something like 1.2 million people in this week alone. Now they're vaccinating for the disease measles, which the agency says is the No. 1 vaccine-preventable disease in Afghanistan. Now this vaccination program, according to UNICEF, should save something like 35,000 lives in this year alone. Many children die because of measles here, because of complications like pneumonia and other issues relating to poor health --malnutrition as well.

Now they're starting in Kabul and after they do the vaccinations in Kabul, they then hope to move out to the other areas. They couldn't do this in other areas around the country because of fighting for the last few years. It simply was unsafe. They couldn't reach many isolated communities, but now with this interim government in place, they say it's relatively safe to move to the other 28 provinces in Afghanistan. They hope to begin those vaccinations by the end of March.

CNN: John, getting back to this story of the Taliban's intelligence chief. I was interested in learning in our own internal wire service that the brother of one of our translators there in Afghanistan had a personal experience with this man. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened?

VAUSE: Yes, it's one of our translators here by the name of Jaba. He's a young man, only 21 years of age. He tells us that his brother was taken in by the intelligence agency, accused of being a commander for the Northern Alliance, which Jaba tells us he wasn't. He also said that his brother was tortured, he was held in jail for many, many months, and that finally his mother got to see him.

His brother was blue from the beatings. He had been held under water. He had been repeatedly beaten and held in very, very poor conditions. But finally the family managed to guarantee his safety and his release with a cash payment of around $500. According to Jaba, that's how they did business here under the Taliban.




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