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America Strikes Back: Taliban Ambassador Says at Least 70 Civilians Killed Inside Afghanistan; Look at Home of B-2 Stealth Bomber

Aired October 11, 2001 - 05:33   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get a check now of the latest developments in the war on terrorism. Within the hour Taliban officials in Pakistan accused the Pentagon of targeting civilians. They say the Pentagon has killed at least 100 civilians so far.

A CNN source inside Kandahar Afghanistan reports that hundreds of people were seen leaving that area today. Many of the people are leaving without any food, shelter or water.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And British Prime Minister Tony Blair goes to Cairo today for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Blair is on a three-day Middle East tour to rally support for the anti terrorism campaign.

HARRIS: And President Bush is going to head to the Pentagon today. He's going to be thanking the military for serving in the war on terrorism. Mr. Bush also plans to meet with his Cabinet to talk about the broad range of government activities linked to the anti (INAUDIBLE) campaign.

LIN : And just about 25 minutes ago, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan had a news conference making several claims. We're going to check in with CNN's Tom Mintier who is based out of Islamabad these days.

Tom, the ambassador was claiming that more than 100 people have been killed - civilians killed during these U.S. led airstrikes.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this goes up from yesterday when basically all they talked at the Taliban embassy was the four U.N. workers who were killed by a hit on their office in Kabul. Basically a wide ranging stinging criticism, the United States, the ambassador accusing the Pentagon of lying to the world, saying that only military targets were being hit.

Now the ambassador said that at least 70 people have now been killed inside Afghanistan claiming they were all civilians.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the past days (INAUDIBLE) American (INAUDIBLE) have been marked (ph) out in different parts of our country. Their number is increasing with the passage of time. This is the gift of America to the (INAUDIBLE) people of Afghanistan.

It is in a time the Pentagon is lying to the world that it is not getting civilians. We tell White House administration, your atrocities, your weapons and your hypocrisy will not weaken the (INAUDIBLE) Afghans.

All (INAUDIBLE) powers have tested our strong (INAUDIBLE) and the sentiments for - and our sentiments for (INAUDIBLE) independence and faith. This time you (INAUDIBLE) and the (INAUDIBLE) Ola (ph).


MINTIER: The details provided by the Taliban at their press briefing more ideological and numerical, they did say that four houses were hit in Kandahar and Kabul, but really provided few details beyond that.


LIN: Then Tom, can you give us the details that you know about this very intense night of airstrikes, then?

MINTIER: What we hear from our sources inside Afghanistan is that it was indeed intense, especially in Kandahar. We did see some pictures coming out via videophone of people departing the city with basic belongings. Nothing like what we've seen in the past.

Apparently there were more than 30 explosions in the center of the city including strikes on the airfield and other locations there. Supposedly, an ammunition dump was also hit in Kandahar, which resulted in secondary explosions, which sent ammunition screaming through downtown parts of Kandahar.

So the pictures often speak more than some of the information we get and looking at those images, even though they're jerky and fuzzy of the people leaving Kandahar, obviously in stark contrast of what the scene was yesterday when supposedly the market was open in downtown Kandahar, a stark difference in the video images, at least of what the situation is on the ground.

LIN: Tom, can you give us a comparison from your past experience of this - the pictures of these people fleeing? I mean you covered the Vietnam War. How does it compare?

MINTIER: Well when I first looked at those images, I thought I was looking at (INAUDIBLE) in 1975 as that city was being evacuated as the (INAUDIBLE) were advancing on the city. So it immediately draws that comparison.

It is a chaotic situation at best when your home and your office and your neighborhood is facing a heavy bombardment. You know while the Pentagon says that they are targeting only military targets, you have to realize that there's a good possibility that enters first in a lot of the neighborhoods may be military targets that basically are being hit at the same time. So while the planters try to not go after residential neighborhoods and areas like that, there are a lot of outposts, I'm sure, that the Taliban are using that are extremely close to residential areas.

LIN: That's right and aid workers are saying - they say as many as 100,000 to a million people could be displaced by these latest airstrikes.

We're going to get more on that later in the broadcast, but I'm wondering if you're also hearing anything about U.S. troops now basing in Pakistan.

MINTIER: And that was a big story in the local papers today, at least one newspaper. "The Dawn" (ph) reporting that four airfields have been cleared for U.S. military operations, both transport planes, helicopters and troops.

Now the government would not confirm this story, but they would say that part of what is being offered by Pakistan to the United States was the clearance of their airspace, intelligence and logistical support, saying that this may fall in the logistical category, but not going any further than that, saying that they couldn't confirm the story. But if there are logistic operations going on, this indeed did not mean that there are offensive operations being conducted from Pakistani soil -- something that was said to be a last resort putting actual personnel on the ground here in Pakistan.

They were very reluctant to say anything about that, saying that this goes into the operational details. This goes into security arrangements, and they weren't going to comment on anything that might involve tactics or operations.

LIN: But certainly a hint of a possible next phase in these strikes. Thank you very much. Tom Mintier reporting live from Islamabad.


HARRIS: U.S. military has granted CNN the rare opportunity to see the kind of military muscle that's being flexed in Afghanistan. The USS Carl Vinson is the staging area for the U.S. assaults from the Arabian Sea, and our Walter Rodgers is on board that aircraft carrier and he's going to give us an up close look at what's happening there.

But first, let's take a look at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, the home of the B-2 stealth bomber. CNN's Brian Nelson is there, and he gives us a close-up look at a military marvel.


BRIAN NELSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As of Wednesday afternoon, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri was returning to normal. The pilots of the 509th Bomb Wing resumed training. For the moment, their role in Afghanistan over. For the six B-2 stealth bombers deployed since Sunday and their two-man crews were safe. Two others on route home. The wing commander described the mood of his men this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very emotional, very confident, ready to go again - thumbs up on all aspects of the mission.

NELSON: In an effort to assert his role in the Afghanistan mission, the Air Force ushered the media on base and gave them what seemed like an audience with the plane whose bat-like wings and super secret skin material made it royalty in the aviation world.

A plane so stealthy that when asked what his pilots experienced in the way of Afghanistan defenses, the general answered ...


NELSON: Although an enemy will pay a price for not seeing the B- 2 stealth, reporters got almost all they wanted for free. With the cameras in tow, they crawled around it and beneath it (INAUDIBLE) gawking at one of the most advanced warplanes in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an unpallow (ph) view, the bomb bay of the B-2 stealth bomber. It just returned from Afghanistan this morning and according to the general, of the 16 bombs that were in here, many of the 16 contained inscriptions to the memories of the members of the New York fire and police departments who guarded the World Trade Center.

NELSON: One of these stealth bombers set an endurance record of 44 hours, the longest (INAUDIBLE) ever flown in history - another first for the 509th whose legendary place in history includes missions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

Brian Nelson, CNN, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the end of the day, it comes down to this, an exhausted pilot returning after a bombing run over Afghanistan, landing at 150 miles an hour on a postage stamp in mid ocean. These Navy pilots make it look easy, but it's the landing signal officer's. LSOs, talking the pilots down safely who make the difference between disaster and a second chance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The landing signal officers are themselves pilots spending their day off working to keep other pilots alive. It's extraordinarily dangerous work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of these pilots have been flying for over 12 hours and sometimes they miss on the first pass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) probably pretty tired. So, he probably just wants to get aboard and get a greasy hamburger and go to bed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holding what's called the pickle, they flash lights signaling either a go-ahead or an abort, and Navy pilots get critiqued and graded on every landing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nighttime landings are still hard because you have no visual reference of the horizon, especially when there's no mirrors. It's really easy to lose your orientation coming down the (INAUDIBLE) at night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These LSOs are there to give the pilots a little extra help. They use psychology sometimes trying to get inside a stressed out pilot's head to get them down safely - one pilot talking to another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well when there's nowhere else to go, it's really easy to fall back on thinking about the other alternative and that would be to eject. So coming aboard at night isn't so bad.

RODGERS: They say there's a lot of satisfaction in this helping a brother pilot get back safely on board and then seeing another $60- million aircraft gets put to bed safely each night.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, aboard the Carl Vinson in the Arabian Sea.


HARRIS: I would (INAUDIBLE) long and hard before (INAUDIBLE) kind of hours we put in.

LIN: You bet and ...

HARRIS: That's amazing.

LIN: ... look how far we've come in the last month. Exactly one month ago today those terrorists struck in the United States and completely changing the way we view the world and our relationships with other countries and get more military action, and it's still a very grim site in South Manhattan in New York City.

HARRIS: That's right, one month ago today, two of the world's grandest structures stood there. That's all that's left now.

Coming up, we take a look at - a look back and a look at how folks are coping. Stay with us.





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