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Explosions in Kabul: Pentagon Does Not Confirm Nor Deny U.S. Involvement

Aired September 11, 2001 - 18:16   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Let's now go back to New York and to Aaron Brown -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Judy, thank you. I'm joined here as well by Paula Zahn, and you will hear her voice in just a moment. As we continue to look at these pictures out of Afghanistan, again I would remind you that the technology here is called a video phone, it is very high tech and a little bit imperfect, but it is perfect enough so that you can clearly see that fire burning in the distance, or what Nic is describing -- Nic Robertson has s described as an ammunition dump very probably, and you can very clearly see or we have been very able to see throughout Nic's reporting the tracer fire coming up, the anti-aircraft fire coming up.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: I think we need to make it clear at this point that no group has claimed responsibility for the multiple attacks today, and yet U.S. intelligence officials confirmed with David Ensor earlier today that they believe a group connected to Osama bin Laden may have been involved.

You have talked about this all day long, and I think you have done a very good job of explaining how well-financed this would had to have been, how well-orchestrated. It begs the question, if not Osama bin Laden, then whom.

BROWN: Then who. Nic, from the very beginning, the Taliban officials, Afghani officials have said, we had nothing to do with this. Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with this. How do you hear that? Was there any nuance in the language that sent a different message that maybe the rest of us might not have heard?

Well, perhaps we have lost at least the -- the audio portion here. Jamie McIntyre has been outside the Pentagon, can you hear us?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I do hear you.

BROWN: Are you hearing anything from the Pentagon, wherever the Pentagon might literally be right now, or at least officials about whether there is an American involvement in what we are looking at in Afghanistan?

MCINTYRE: I have talked to several senior officials, and they told me they are not aware of whether or not this is a U.S. military strike, but the most senior officials are in the Pentagon, and in fact, several bus loads of reporters have been taken over now to the Pentagon briefing room, where we expect shortly Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, flanked by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin and Senator John Warner, to brief us on developments today.

And if this is in fact a military strike, or part of a U.S. retaliation, we would expect that Secretary Rumsfeld would tell us at that time. Secretary Rumsfeld has been in the Pentagon all day. He went outside briefly to make an inspection tour of the damage behind me. Many, many casualties here today, but the Pentagon is refusing to give any numbers or even estimates of how many people were killed and injured in this terrorist attack today here at the Pentagon.

But again, no confirmation at this point from any of the officials that I have talked to about whether what we are seeing in Afghanistan is part of a U.S. military retaliation.

BROWN: Jamie, just to make sure that I heard this correctly, no one is saying "yes, it is," but no one has said to you "no, it's not" either, have they?

MCINTYRE: No. No one has steered us away from it. They have -- the officials who have been over here with the press, and we are just about half a mile or so from the Pentagon, simply said that they had not been briefed and were not aware of this action when we told them that CNN was reporting explosions in Kabul.

So -- but again, several officials have speculated that if this were the case, that that might explain the reason for Secretary Rumsfeld's appearance. And of course, being flanked by the bipartisan support of Congress, is clearly designed to send a message that while there may be squabbles between the Pentagon and Congress, but when it comes to something like this, there is absolute unanimity.

That may also account for the reason that despite the damage to the Pentagon, that they want to hold this event in the Pentagon briefing room, which is on the other side of the building, which was not damaged by the plane crash into the side of the building, in order to show a portrait to the world that the United States military headquarters is still up and functioning and that the United States is still capable of reaching out and touching its enemies.

ZAHN: All right. Thank you very much, Jamie.

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