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House of Representatives Recessing Until Next Tuesday to Check for Anthrax; Airstrikes Overnight Over Kabul Strike a Number of Positions

Aired October 18, 2001 - 05:12   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Sixteen minutes past the hour on this Thursday.

We're going to take a check of our latest developments right now.

The House of Representatives is recessing until next Tuesday to allow authorities to check for anthrax. The Senate will remain open, but its three adjacent office buildings will be closed until next week.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And foreign ministers at the APEC summit in China have painted the struggle against terrorism as a fight between justice and evil, but the statement being drafted at the 21 nation conference omits any mention of the U.S.-led strikes in Afghanistan. We'll continue to follow that as that meeting does get under way.

But right now we want to check on things at the Pentagon with the news that the latest air strikes coming around Kabul and the Northern Alliance's planned advance on Mazir-i-Sharif. Let's check in now with Jeff Levine, who's checking in from the Pentagon this morning -- good morning, Jeff.

JEFF LEVINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

Well, we understand that the bombing in Kabul has relented, at least for now. That was as of about six or seven hours ago, but not until U.S. planes have done heavy damage to the city.

Now, as this new video shows, there was a fuel depot in the northern part of Kabul and that was hit very hard by U.S. planes and it was reduced to flame.

Also, one report indicates that the presidential palace was nearly hit by a bomb on Wednesday. Another significant development on Wednesday, for the first time U.S. bombers flew from land bases in the Persian Gulf, possibly in Kuwait. That increases American air power in the conflict to about 100 planes.

Now, President Bush suggested in a speech on Wednesday he might offer help to the Taliban's opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're making progress. The terrorist camps are being destroyed. The enemy's air force and air defenses are being demolished. We're paving the way for friendly troops on the ground to slowly but surely tighten the net to bring them to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVINE: Maybe if bullets don't do the job, perhaps words will. Here is an excerpt from a propaganda broadcast that's being sent to the Taliban. "You are condemned. Our helicopters will rain fire down upon your camps. Our bombs are so accurate we can drop them right through your windows. Our infantry is trained for any climate and terrain on earth. You have only one choice -- surrender now." In addition, those broadcasts explain to the Taliban how to return their weapons, lay down their weapons and give up -- Leon.

HARRIS: I've got to say, a message like that would get my attention.

LEVINE: Just a bit.

HARRIS: It remains to be seen if it's going to work over there.

LEVINE: That's a big jump.

HARRIS: But let me ask you if we can't quickly, Jeff, if you heard any word about the progress or the success of these food drops right now. There was some question yesterday about whether or not they were actually being executed efficiently. What's the latest word on them, do you know?

LEVINE: Well, I think that there's still a question about that and I think that -- you mentioned Mazir-i-Sharif -- I think the belief is that if Mazir-i-Sharif were to fall to the opposition forces, to the Northern Alliance, that would create a base, a position from which those food sources could be distributed. In the meantime, I think it's pretty much catch as catch can and I believe that the concern is that those food supplies are not getting through. But if Mazir-i- Sharif were to fall to the opposition, they believe they would do a more efficient job of getting that food out to the people who are hungry.

HARRIS: All right, good deal.

Thanks for that, Jeff. Good to see you again. It's been a long time.

LEVINE: Good to see you, Leon. Thank you.

HARRIS: Jeff Levine at the Pentagon, we'll talk to you later on -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, from the Pentagon to the actual location.

Chris Burns is in northern Afghanistan with more on the Kabul airstrikes -- hi, Chris.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kyra.

Well, the air strikes overnight before dawn over Kabul struck at a number of positions, including a military base of the Taliban as well as anti-aircraft positions, defensive positions. There was some AAA anti-aircraft fire that did go up that didn't hit any planes, but there was some, less than in recent days so it does appear that the air strikes are having their effect against the air defenses.

The air strikes are, however, also hitting some civilian positions and injuring some civilians. We have some video of a hospital in Kabul where there were at least 10 people who were injured, among them two children. Also, the Taliban are claiming that 20 civilians were killed in air strikes in Kandahar and, however, again, that is very, very difficult to confirm from here.

The fighting in Mazir, as you have discussed, rages on. It is sort of a back and forth. It is a seesaw battle. Both sides are bitterly fighting over this because of how important and strategic it is for both sides to keep it or to win it. The Northern Alliance claims to be within about two miles of the airport. That airport outside Mazir was struck repeatedly by U.S.-led air strikes, softening up those defenses.

Also, there's fighting reported by the Northern Alliance in Uruzgan Province (ph). That is in the central Afghanistan. And also in Herat. That's a western province. In Herat, also, air strikes struck at a number of positions there, the Northern Alliance claiming to make advances. Again, difficult to confirm from this point.

In fact, the Northern Alliance is claiming -- if you've got that map up there -- about 30 to 35 percent of this Texas sized country. Very difficult for us to confirm any of that, but in any case they are, they have been making some advances in some places as President Bush has been calling for them to do. So we do see some kind of coordination here going on between the ground and the air, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Chris Burns, we will continue to check in with you quite frequently. Thank you so much.

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