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America Strikes Back: Colin Powell Heading to Pakistan; Taliban Claim U.S.-Led Airstrikes Killed as Many as 200 Civilians in Village

Aired October 15, 2001 - 05:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Colin Powell takes his diplomacy on the road. The latest on the secretary of state's visit to Pakistan and the anti-American protests that await him there.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Anthrax fears, real and imagined, the White House appeals for calm while investigators search for answers.

HARRIS: And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes center stage again. The West looks to the Middle East for solutions.

PHILLIPS: Good morning, everyone. It's Monday, October 15, 2001. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips.

HARRIS: And I'm Leon Harris. We thank you for joining us this Monday morning.

Here now the latest developments as America strikes back in the war on terrorism.

PHILLIPS: An eighth day of air strikes targets Taliban hardware near Kabul. Sources tell CNN the air strikes targeted Taliban artillery and heavy armor that had been moved to the mountains north of the city.

HARRIS: President Bush says no deal to the Taliban's latest offer to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden. They had agreed to do so to a third country and if the U.S. provided any proof. The Taliban want proof of bin Laden's guilt in the September 11 attacks. But President Bush says no negotiations means no negotiations.

PHILLIPS: And at least 18 people are dead in Nigeria after two days of clashes between police and anti-U.S. protesters.

HARRIS: There are protests around the world against what's happening in Afghanistan, many of them happening, taking place, rather, in Pakistan, and that is where Secretary of State Colin Powell is on his way.

Our Major Garrett is at the White -- is in Washington this morning. He's going to give us the very latest on Colin Powell's planned trip -- good morning, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon. You know, President Bush has talked a good deal about the international coalition against terrorism and there's one thing that could help shatter that coalition and do it very quickly. That would be a shooting war between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir, which is why President Bush has dispatched his secretary of state, Colin Powell, both to Islamabad and to New Delhi to talk to the leaders of both India and Pakistan with a very urgent message to them about Kashmir. And this is not really diplomatic language, but the essential message is cool it.

The United States will not go proposing any solution to this long festering problem, but what the secretary of state will urge both nations to do is to minimize tensions over Kashmir.

Richard Boucher, the secretary of state's spokesman, also said last week that Mr. Powell will deliver a very specific message to the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, saying doing what -- urging him to do what he can to minimize what Indians see as terrorist activity sponsored by Pakistan in Kashmir. He'll then travel on to New Delhi to talk to the Indian prime minister about what they can do to minimize tensions in that very volatile region -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Major, while Secretary Powell is on his -- is doing his diplomatic duty there in the region, what happens here on the home front?

GARRETT: Well, there's a lot of things happening on the home front, Leon. Of course, the FBI is continuing to investigate any and all possible leads. The attorney general said over the weekend that law enforcement authorities are still looking for as many as 190 people they would like to interview who may be involved or have some knowledge about future acts of terrorism within the United States. And, of course, there's the continuing anthrax anxiety, more cases of anthrax not being developed, but anthrax exposure happening in more and more places around the country. And to that end, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, and the president are asking Congress for an additional $1.5 billion in emergency appropriations to beef up the way the federal government can respond to any type of bioterrorism, including anthrax -- Leon.

HARRIS: Major Garrett in Washington, thank you very much. We'll talk with you later on -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: There's an interesting look at the way Pakistanis feel about the U.S.-led war on terrorism. "Newsweek" magazine polled Pakistanis last week. When asked if they sympathized with the Taliban or the United States, 83 percent say they side with the Taliban. Only three percent say they side with the U.S. And when asked if they consider Osama bin Laden a holy warrior or a terrorist, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis call him a holy warrior.

Our Tom Mintier has been following the latest developments in Pakistan, including this national day of strike to protest Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to this region.

Tom joins us now live from Islamabad -- hi, Tom. TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.

There are supposed to be some demonstrations today to go along with this nationwide day of strike. As you're well aware, Friday was a day of prayer and a day of protest here in Pakistan. Today the religious clerics in opposition to the government told the businessmen to shutter their doors and be ready to see the demonstrations on the streets.

Now, the compliance was quite strong in the city of Quetta and Peshawar. Here in Islamabad, we did see a lot of businesses normally open on this day close their doors and padlock them in the front and we saw people sitting on the sidewalks out in front of many of the businesses.

But there were businesses open here in Islamabad. We saw the grocery store open, the gas station open, the drug store open. In the city of Karachi, a much larger city, the port city, the majority of stores there did remain open despite violent protests there earlier in the week.

Now, some of the store owners say they were closing because they wanted to show support. Others said they were closing out of fear that the demonstrators might, indeed, come down their street and cause problems in their shop.

So far the demonstrations in Islamabad have been extremely small, not violent at all. The violence has been occurring in places like Quetta, where within hours after the strike people came into the street, set fire to UNICEF's office there and caused some real problems. They attacked a police station and a bank and several people were killed during that melee.

What everyone is waiting to see is what the U.S. secretary of state brings with him to Pakistan. Colin Powell will be arriving later this afternoon here in Islamabad and he will hold meetings tomorrow with President Pervez Musharraf. He will have some time free on his schedule later this evening and there is the possibility that there might be meetings scheduled with some of the different factions that may make up the next government in Afghanistan if and when the Taliban government does, indeed, fall.

Also on the agenda supposedly will be Kashmir. There has been concern expressed by the United States and British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he was here that the attention be continued to be focused on Afghanistan and the situation there and the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir be kept on the back burner.

Now, there are hopes here in Pakistan that Mr. Powell will bring along with him the idea of some kind of mediated settlement, possibly under the umbrella of the United Nations once Afghanistan has been settled to move the attention and keep the focus in this region so the issue of Kashmir can go from the back burner to the front burner -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Tom Mintier live in Islamabad, thank you so much -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, let's take a look now at some of the targets in the latest round of air strikes in Afghanistan. Missiles struck Kandahar and near Kabul. Sources inside Kandahar tell CNN that the blast sounded like GBU28s, or so-called 5,000 pound bunker busters. Those are the laser guided bombs built to penetrate deep underground.

Meanwhile, the strikes in Kabul continued well into this morning.

Let's find out now whether or not they are still going on.

Our Matthew Chance is just north of Kabul. He's been spending his time with the Northern Alliance and he's checking in right now -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Leon, renewed strikes across Afghanistan but very little movement on the Northern Alliance, the opposition group to the Taliban, very little movement on their front line. Overnight we caught the images on our night scope video phone. Those flashes of light explosions lighting up the skies over Kabul. U.S. military sources telling us that bunkers, underground bunkers were the main target in the latest round of attacks.

Eyewitnesses say the telephone exchange in the capital, Kabul, also came under attack and was knocked out of action. We also saw sporadic anti-aircraft fire from Taliban positions. Now north of the capital, Kabul, would be forces of the Northern Alliance, with whom I'm based right now. They've been placed on high alert. There is no significant movement, though, out of their front line positions towards Kabul.

Commanders on the front lines say they have a battle plan to take the Afghan capital. They've made no bones about the fact that that's their ultimate prize.

But political leaders appear to be acknowledged that there will be difficult decisions to be made before the order is given for an advance on Kabul. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance.


DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, NORTHERN ALLIANCE FOREIGN MINISTER: We are like 40 kilometers north of Kabul and the issue of Kabul is one of political as well as military importance for us and also as far as the situation in Afghanistan as a whole is concerned. Moving towards Kabul will need a political decision as well as the military circumstances.


CHANCE: Post-Taliban, of course, one of the big concerns of the international community is that Afghanistan does not return to the kind of factional fighting that really ravaged the country after the withdrawal of the forces of the Soviet Union back in 1989. One initiative has been to bring back the deposed Afghan king, Zahir Shah, who now lives in Rome, to at least head in part some kind of interim administration before elections. But, Leon, nothing has been decided yet.

HARRIS: Matthew, what are you hearing there about massive, I guess, changing of sides by some of these warlords in different areas? We've been hearing and seeing different reports about perhaps many of them changing sides from the Taliban and joining some of these opposition forces.

CHANCE: Yes, well, Leon, we've been hearing those reports for several weeks now. In fact, large scale defections of war lords, of fighters allied to the Taliban switching sides and coming to join the forces of the Northern Alliance. We've also been hearing reports from the Taliban that they're saying some forces of the Northern Alliance, some of their war lords are coming over to their side now.

The problem is we're not able to see any of these defectors. We've asked, certainly, the officials of the Northern Alliance to be taken, to be shown who these defectors are and to interview them. We've not been able to do that and so we can't independently verify that these defections are taking place, although both sides say that they are getting a serious amount of defections from one another.

HARRIS: Matthew Chance reporting live there with the Northern Alliance forces in northern Afghanistan -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: The Taliban claim U.S.-led air strikes killed as many as 200 people in the village of Koram. The Taliban took CNN's Nic Robertson and a group of journalists to see the village this weekend. The Taliban are escorting Nic, but he is not being restricted in what he says.

Here's his exclusive report from Afghanistan.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a rundown hospital in Jalalabad, 1 1/2-year-old Azibullah (ph) clings to his father, Achmed Zai (ph). Achmed says he remembers hearing the call to prayer early Thursday morning. Then, he says, planes started dropping bombs. His four other sons died in the attack, he says, and his wife was also injured.

In the bed next to him, Mohammed Shah Khan (ph) has a similar story. His wife died in the bombing raid. All he has left, he says, is his 3-month-old daughter Allie (ph).

In the next ward, Samina (ph) sits silently waiting. Doctors say her parents were killed in the same raid on the village of Koram.

And so the patient list goes on. Rachmed Barby (ph) also orphaned in the Koram raid, according to doctors.

In Koram, anger over the attack is still palpable and so, too, memories in this village where 90 percent of the houses appeared destroyed still fresh. Masdoud (ph) describes how he escaped the bombing. "My boys went in this house here and I went there. My three brothers and mother are dead."

The hunt for the living is more or less over, even though some villagers still sift through the debris. All around, dead livestock add to the stench in the air. A hundred yards away, an unexploded bomb juts out of the ground, evidence, villagers say, they were attacked by Americans. Others display bomb fragments, for them, more justification to hate America.

Journalists were brought here by the Taliban. But the anger among the villagers seems authentic to reporters experienced in Afghanistan. And the number of bomb craters and variety of armaments seen here suggests this was not an error.

The Pentagon won't comment on specific targets. But it says it has strived to avoid targeting civilians, aiming only at the stronghold of the Taliban or al Qaeda. Asked if the hard to reach hillside cluster of houses could have been mistaken for a terrorist training camp, the answer a firm no.

"Does Osama use these field tools and are these Osama's clothes?" Seagoul (ph) says, passing off items in the devastation around him.

Keen to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to prove their innocence, villagers unearthed the remains of what they said was a girl. Several dozen fresh graves now litter the almost totally destroyed village. Many others, villagers say, have been buried elsewhere.

(on camera): Taliban officials and local leaders say 200 people died here and while it is impossible to independently verify such figures, it is clear the attacks have greatly fueled anti-American sentiment in the area.

(voice-over): In nearby villages, demonstrators come out to protest in front of international journalists. "Death to Bush! Death to Tony Blair!" the cry. And while noisy, they appear readily controlled by the Taliban, able to show the support they command.

UNIDENTIFIED AFGHANI: Yes, all the people is so angry about it and so angry about that action, maybe that people that they injured and dead, they are common people, not belongs to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Arabic people.

ROBERTSON: At the request of journalists, Taliban officials did show the pinpoint accuracy of American missiles. The radar at Jalalabad Airport, they say, took a direct hit the first night of the strikes. The airport is now out of action, the Taliban airport commander says, because communications are also down.

Away from targets, life appears to have some normality. In downtown Jalalabad, most stores are open and fuel readily available at the pumps. While some people are still heading to the countryside for safety, a very senior Taliban official announced that after the first week of strikes, they have widespread popular support. Few in this area appear ready to argue with that view.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Jalalabad, Afghanistan.


HARRIS: And our thanks to Nic Robertson for bringing us that exclusive look behind-the-scenes in Afghanistan in areas that no Western journalist has been able to get to.

Let's check in now at the Pentagon and get the word from there on what may have happened in that village of Koram. That may be a big P.R. and political problem now springing forth from that.

Let's check in now. Frank Buckley is standing by at the Pentagon -- Frank, good morning.


So far Pentagon officials not acknowledging the Koram situation or commenting on it at all and we expect that they will field some questions on that at some point later today. They are acknowledging, however, an errant bombing situation that did take place on Friday in Kabul. In that situation, four people were reportedly killed, others injured, when a 2,000 pound satellite guided bomb went in and missed the intended military target, a helicopter at Kabul Airport, and instead landed in a residential neighborhood where reportedly four people were killed.

The JDAM bomb, that stands for joint direct attack munition, was supposed to hit a military helicopter, as we say, at Kabul Airport, according to the Pentagon. Instead, it hit that civilian neighborhood. And Pentagon officials issued a statement Saturday saying that, "We regret the loss of any civilian life. U.S. forces are intentionally striking only military and terrorist targets. They take great care in their targeting process to avoid civilian casualties."

Meanwhile, air strikes do continue into the second week and as they do, some U.S. officials are beginning to talk about what may come next on the ground.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: There will be changes in our mission. Some of it will be announced by the president and secretary of state and so forth. But I think we have to go now or soon to the second phase. Until we eradicate Osama bin Laden and his followers, his camps and everything that goes with it, and bring about some kind of a more stable government to Afghanistan, we're not going to get very far.


BUCKLEY: U.S. defense officials have consistently refused to discuss how and when ground forces may engage in Afghanistan, but on Friday Richard Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, hinted that ground actions could be in the offing when he said that what we are seeing so far in conventional forces is just stage setting, as he put it, for future follow on operations to come.

Today, Meyers will be officially welcomed as the chairman of the joint chiefs in a welcoming ceremony. He was sworn in on October 1.

Meanwhile, the deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, is having a media availability at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. That's when he's expected to take some questions about the bombing cooperation -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, let me get back to that bombing campaign for one more question, Frank.

Any hint at all that there may be some changes to come in the way these targets are being selected now, that we've seen perhaps the third civilian area being hit by either an errant bomb or mistakenly targeted in this case?

BUCKLEY: There have been some hints that at some point they will run out of the hard targets, that is, some of the infrastructure targets that were important to hit early on, according to the U.S. military, to take out command and control, those kinds of targets, and they will be shifting more and more towards some of the human targets where they can find the soldiers that are amassing and moving in a certain direction.

There may be some hints that they will be going more in that direction as they simply run out of some of those hard targets that they were hitting initially.

HARRIS: This looks like an interesting day shaping up at the Pentagon.

Frank Buckley, thank you very much -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, did the CIA have a chance to kill Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in the first night of air strikes? That's what journalist Seymour Hirsch writes about in "The New Yorker." Coming up in two hours, we'll speak with him about his findings.

HARRIS: Sick hoax or real bioterrorism. Last week's anthrax scare has put the nation on edge.

PHILLIPS: When we return, reassurances from the White House, a new probe by Congress and the latest developments in the investigation.




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