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Bill Hemmer: Weapons cache found near airport

CNN's Bill Hemmer
CNN's Bill Hemmer  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. Marines continue to occupy the Kandahar International Airport, where about 380 of the Afghan war detainees are being held. About 50 others have passed through on their way to the U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. CNN's Bill Hemmer was at the airport Tuesday and filed this report.

HEMMER: There have been eight continuous days of intense U.S.-led bombing in eastern Afghanistan. Our reports from there indicate that the bombing has intensified to a higher degree than we have ever seen. The target, a suspected terrorist training camp, has been flattened. The Pentagon says 60 structures above ground have been destroyed and about 50 cave openings have been closed by the bombings.

There have been no reports, however, of bombing in the past 24 hours. The Pentagon has said that when the bombing subsides they send people inside those caves and tunnels and structures to gather intelligence.

Here in Kandahar, the Marines today said they've identified seven people lurking on the security perimeter of the base yesterday afternoon. A patrol was sent out during the daytime hours and they found a weapons cache, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fuses. A bit later, they blew those areas up, flattened some abandoned buildings and knocked out the crawl spaces, where they say a lot of these weapons had been stored.

In addition, they say several cave openings have been imploded and closed.

As a result of all of this, they're going to expand the security perimeter here in Kandahar. All this was found just about a couple of hundred yards from where the Marines sit in fighting holes 24 hours a day.

Incidentally, this was the same area where shots were fired -- machine-gun fire -- last Thursday night when the first shipment of detainees headed off for the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

They watch the perimeter just about 24 hours a day, often using night vision goggles. Many times if they see things they'll shoot white flares to light up the area. In fact, two nights ago when the second shipment of detainees left, we noticed about half a dozen Humvees patrolling that same area at nighttime, at the same time the second flight was taking off.

Nineteen more detainees were brought to this base last night, the first night in three nights that new detainees have arrived here. The number of detainees here is 380, and as we've been saying for weeks now, sources say the greater majority, if not all of them, will make their way eventually to Guantanamo Bay where 50 detainees have already been transported.

On a personal note, it got really cold last night. I think the wind chill was right around five degrees when we woke up this morning and we anticipate the thermometer will drop a little bit more tonight, which isn't too bad if you've got a place to go. But we haven't been inside and indoors for about a month's time. So we're staying bundled up.

We have been sleeping on a tile floor and we got a chance to boil some water with some propane. Some showers were set up for us about a week ago. We call them showers, but to be quite honest it's kind of like semi-warm water that trickles out of a hose.




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