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U.S. Jet Accidentally Bombs Civilian Area in Afghanistan

Aired October 13, 2001 - 10:10   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.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: We now have some breaking news from the Pentagon. Jamie McIntyre joins us on the telephone with the latest.

Jamie, fill us in.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne, U.S. officials conceding this morning that a U.S. Navy jet has accidentally bombed the civilian area near Kabul. According to a senior Pentagon official, a Navy jet flying off one of the aircraft carriers was aiming at a helicopter at the Kabul Airport just about five -- five- and-a-half hours ago using a precision-guided bomb.

Somehow, the bomb went astray and missed the target by about a mile, landing in a civilian, residential area. There are some reports of deaths on the ground, but the Pentagon has no information to confirm any of that. They are, however, admitting that one of their smart bombs, dropped from a U.S. Navy plane, did go astray by about a mile and hit a civilian area.

They -- obviously, the Pentagon always regrets the unintended death of civilians. But this was, they say, an accident, which a bomb did not hit its intended target. This is at least the second time that the Pentagon has admitted that one of its weapons may have gone astray and killed civilians. In the first case, a tomahawk cruise missile that was aimed at a communications tower did not hit the tower about the same time that four U.N. workers were killed in a compound near Kabul. And in that case, the conclusion there is that also those deaths might have been from the errant missile.

But again, just to repeat -- it appears that a U.S. Navy jet aiming at a helicopter at the Kabul Airport had a precision-guided ammunition go astray by about a mile and hit a civilian area. There are some reports from the scene of some number of deaths but there's no confirmation of that from the Pentagon -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Jamie, any sense of how heavily populated an area that might have been?

MCINTYRE: Well, I believe some of the reports from the scene indicate that there might have been somewhere between one and four people killed. So it's not clear exactly how populated -- it was described to me by one official as a -- quote -- "residential area." So it seems like there were a small number of deaths, but there's really no way to tell until we get reports from the scene.

MESERVE: And Jamie, what might have caused a missile of this type to go astray?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's not clear whether this was a laser-guided bomb, in which case, it could have been -- there could have been a disruption in the laser. It could have been a malfunction of the weapon. Or if it was a more sophisticated satellite-guided bomb, in which case it could have had the wrong coordinates programmed or something like that. It's just really impossible to say at this point.

But the Pentagon has always made it clear that these precision- guided weapons, while they're best available in the world are not insatiable. Experience has shown that they do occasionally miss their mark. They do not have a 100 percent accuracy and this appears to be one of those cases where the missile simply -- the bomb simply went astray.

MESERVE: Jamie McIntyre, thanks for that information. And now, let's bring in Kelly Wallace up at Camp David.

Kelly, do you have any more information from that vantage point?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, Jeanne and no immediate reaction. Learning this report just as you did from our great military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre. We're obviously right now making calls to get some reaction.

What I can say is basically two things -- no. 1, President Bush has for the most part continued to say that there will be casualties here. He was preparing the American people that there could possibly be some casualties involving men and women of the Armed Forces, that there also could be possibly some civilian casualties, that this is really the price that might have to be paid here. So it's something he has talked about because of this campaign and because the president said that war had been declared against the United States and so therefore, it had to take this action.

Another message though you're continuing to hear is that these targets, as Jamie just reported, they're military targets -- air defense systems, airports. So obviously the message is that the targets continue to be military targets, anything to disrupt and destroy any type of a system associated with Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime and that the focus is of course, not on the people on Afghanistan.

You heard the president, in his radio address, talking about the humanitarian effort to help the people. And again, Judy, you heard the president -- Jeanne, excuse me -- you heard the president in his news conference Thursday night, saying the quickest way of course to end these military strikes against Afghanistan is for the Taliban to adhere to President Bush's demand -- turn over Osama Bin Laden and his associates, close all those terrorist training camps and allow the U.S. access to those camps. Obviously, we know the Taliban rejecting that second chance offer today. So again, that is one message from the administration we have heard. No reaction yet. We'll get some and get back to you as soon as we can -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Kelly, thank you and we will continue to track this latest development. The Pentagon officials now saying that a U.S. bomb did go astray and hit a civilian area in Kabul.

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