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More Heavy Bombing of Targets in Afghanistan; International Aid Workers Told They Can't Return to Afghanistan for Own Safety

Aired October 18, 2001 - 07:18   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: There has been more heavy bombing of targets in Afghanistan. This U.S.-led assault has been going on now for more than a week and a half and speculation is growing about the next stage.

Our Christiane Amanpour is in neighboring Islamabad, Pakistan with more -- Christiane, good morning.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

And it is the 12th day of bombing here and the air campaign is still going on, although reports from Afghanistan suggest that today's bombing raids were relatively lighter than the previous three days of reports we were getting of what they called very heavy bombardment.

Now, in Kabul, an Associated Press local reporter there is saying that he thinks some of the targeting was on a tank unit of the Taliban and other military installations. Al Jazeera has sent pictures out of Kabul today. They were not allowed to see military targets, but they were taken to what was described as a residential neighborhood, and they say that they have seen collapsed dwellings with civilian casualties.

In Kandahar, we have also heard reports from our sources there, the southern town, the Taliban's ruling seat, of attacks on what they describe as a Taliban commando unit in Kandahar. It's not clear whether this is the unit that the United States, some officials have said they're after, an elite brigade, they say, that contains the Arab volunteer force that makes up the al Qaeda and parts of the Taliban.

Also in Kandahar, the foreign minister, Muttawakil, spoke today about aid workers and the aid situation there. He said he knows and understands that the international aid workers want to come back, but he says they can't for their own security and he wants them to continue working with their local staff inside Afghanistan.

We're joined now by Morton Rostrop (ph), the president of MSF, Doctors Without Borders International.

So you heard what the Taliban foreign minister said.

MORTON ROSTROP, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Is it possible to keep working with your local staff?

ROSTROP: Well, it was possible until Monday, in which our medical facilities in Kandahar were looted by armed men. It was also possible in Mazir-i-Sharif until Monday, in which the same happened. We are still running in Herat and we are still running in Kabul.

AMANPOUR: Now, what is, what are the details of this looting? What have they taken and who?

ROSTROP: We don't know exactly. We don't know who. But there were armed men coming into the compounds and they were taking everything. So we had to suspend and stop all the medical programs in six provinces. So the people are now even suffering more.

AMANPOUR: And how many people would you say, roughly, depend on this assistance?

ROSTROP: Oh, there are tens of thousands of people because we were really running a lot of health facilities.

AMANPOUR: Could there have been people who were looking for desperately needed medical assistance?

ROSTROP: No, because they did get medical assistance because we were running our programs there. So this is something else. They took cars and technical equipment. So the whole issue now for us is that we need really respect for independent humanitarian action inside Afghanistan, and this is a bad, bad scene and we are worried about the situation.

AMANPOUR: Morton Rostrop, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Just one more indication of how difficult it is for the aid organizations to operate and how desperate these people are being left now in Afghanistan -- Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane Amanpour, thanks so much.

Now, back to the terror cooperation in the United States, anthrax and the fear on Capitol Hill. The Senate is in session today. The House is in recess as investigators check for signs of anthrax.

Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, joins me to talk more about that this morning. Thank you very much for joining us today.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Good morning, Paula.

ZAHN: I appreciate it.

Good morning.

So, Senator, how satisfied are you that you and your colleagues will be working in a safe environment today? SHELBY: Well, we hope we are. We're certainly going to be working because I believe, Paula, it's important for us to set an example now only for the American people, but for our soldiers overseas that are really in harm's way. A lot of us are awaiting the results of our tests today. I'm one of them. And this will be my second test, so I will -- my first one was negative last week and this, my offices and everyone in my offices are, have been tested. And so they're anxious, to say the least.

ZAHN: I have to tell you, though, it's chilling to hear what you said at the very top. You said, you know, you hope you are returning to a safe workplace. Describe to us what it's like for those of you who are awaiting the results of the first tests, second tests, in your case, as you go back to doing the nation's business?

SHELBY: Well, my office was in the Hart Building. It's near Senator Daschle's office. And so they quarantined the office and told us we couldn't go in there. We can't even go in there to get a phone or anything, even a message or a calendar. But I feel comfortable that perhaps over the weekend with all the checking going on that we'll be cleared and we'll be back.

But today we're going to have to operate out of the Senate. But we are going to be in session and we are going to have votes and I think that's what we should do. That's the responsible thing to do. We shouldn't panic. I think we're all anxious, but we know that this is also dangerous but it's not the most contagious thing in the world, that is, anthrax.

ZAHN: You just said we shouldn't panic and yet this morning the "New York Times" is basically accusing the House of doing just that. Let me read a small part of the editorial...

SHELBY: Go ahead.

ZAHN: ... I'd like you to get a reaction to. The opinion is, "But whoever has been mailing letters laden with anthrax scored a coup when he or she got the House to shut down. Public officials who are continually urging the public to go about their normal lives have an obligation to lead the way."

Senator, do you think House members caved in here?

SHELBY: I'm not going to talk about the House. I'm a member of the Senate. I can just say again, Paula, that I believe our leadership, Senator Daschle and Senator Lott and all of us joining in, decided to stay in session to vote, to set an example and that's why we're here today. And we're going to do the people's business today in the Senate.

ZAHN: But, I know you don't want to talk specifically about the House, but what kind of message do you think this sends the American public that the House won't be in session and the Senate will be?

SHELBY: Well, I'll let people make their own decisions, but I'm just glad to be here. I'm glad to be a member of the Senate. I'm glad that we're going to be in session today and I'm very happy we're going to be voting.

ZAHN: And Senator, I know in the past you've been highly critical of what you think was the United States being sort of blind- sided by these attacks. You, of course, are the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. What is the most important lesson you think the administration has learned?

SHELBY: Well, I hope that the most important lesson is that we've got to do better with our intelligence agencies. We've got to think outside of the box. Our agents have got to be thinking unconventionally, that is, think the unthinkable because these people are going to do the unthinkable. We're not fighting nation states as in the past. We're fighting something we've never seen before. But we can win this if we get down to thinking like they think.

ZAHN: And maybe you can help us understand how they think this morning now that there is confirmation that the strains of anthrax sent to Florida and to New York are the same. What does that mean?

SHELBY: Well, it means that it's the same source and I believe our investigators are going to get to the source. They're going to put together the puzzle here and I have confidence in them that in a few days -- I don't know if it's hours, weeks or days -- that we're going to know who this group is, if it's a group, is it domestic, is it connected to foreign terrorists? We don't know yet, but you can't rule out anything.

ZAHN: What are you inclined to believe now that it has been confirmed, though, that this particular strain is highly virulent and highly sophisticated? Does that lead you in one direction over another?

SHELBY: Well, Paula, I'm not knowledgeable enough to make that kind of decision. It would have to be made by our investigators that know a heck of a lot more about this than I do. But we'll soon hear from the attorney general at the right time and I believe the news will be good, that we're going to find the source and we're going to find the people.

ZAHN: But the bottom line, as you said earlier, you just can't rule anything out, right, Senator?

SHELBY: Absolutely, nothing out.

ZAHN: All right, Senator Shelby, we really appreciate your joining us.

SHELBY: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: I know it's going to be a bit of a hassle. You can't go back to your regular offices, right?

SHELBY: No, I can't.

ZAHN: Where will you be hanging out today? SHELBY: Well, I have a small office in the Capitol and I'm sure it'll be overcrowded today but, you know, the Capitol is large. We can accommodate the Senate. We can accommodate a lot of our people. But more than that, we can do the people's business.

ZAHN: Well, we wish you luck, Senator Shelby, again.

SHELBY: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate your dropping by.

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