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U.S. Special Forces Comb Tora Bora; American Bombers Take Aim at Taliban leaders; White House Works to Defuse India/Pakistan Tensions

Aired December 29, 2001 - 22:00   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Catherine Callaway at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Thanks for joining us and welcome to a special report of America's new war.

We begin with a look at the latest developments at this hour. Trace amounts of anthrax have once again been discovered on a sorting machine that was thought to be decontaminated at a Manhattan postal facility. The machine at the Morgan Processing and Distribution Center was cleaned after testing positive for anthrax last month. Well, health officials say that the latest discovery does not pose a health threat.

And sources tell CNN the army's 101st Airborne Division will take over Kandahar Airport from the U.S. Marines sometime next month. Advance army troops began arriving at the airport this week to begin preparations. That site serving as a detention center for al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners have been arriving throughout the day.

And President Bush today called the leaders of India and Pakistan to try to end escalating tensions going on between the nuclear-armed neighbors. He told India's Prime Minister that the United States was determined to cooperate with the country to fight terrorism. And while speaking with Pakistan's President, Mr. Bush urged him to take additional measures to crack down on extremists.

Well, U.S. special forces and Afghan troops are still combing the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan, hoping to find Osama bin Laden. But there are unconfirmed reports that the suspected terrorist leader is now in Pakistan.

For the latest now, let's check in with CNN's Nic Robertson, who is in Tora Bora. Nic, what's the latest from there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Catherine, it really doesn't appear as if those reports are stopping or in any way limiting the search going on here by U.S. special forces. They go up the mountain in the morning on all-terrain vehicles with some jeeps as well in tow. There's all-terrain vehicles, four wheel motorbike type vehicles. They give access into the rugged terrain here.

They go up into the hills. And there, they have security provided by Eastern Alliance fighters. We have seen them there working on caves, just in the lower foothills here of the Tora Bora mountains. They're going through those caves, searching for whatever clues there can be left there about Osama bin Laden.

A lot of what's been found in the lower caves, however, has been ammunition so far, although around the al Qaeda sites in these mountains that have been bombed are still scraps of paper written in Arabic with diagrams on them. Some of the diagrams show TNT with wires coming out. Others show chemical concoctions. So all of these sites need to be combed, looking for more -- looking for scraps of paper that may provide some more information about Osama bin Laden.

At the end of the day, those special forces come down off the mountains on their all-terrain vehicles. We have also seen, for the first time in 24 -- in just a little over 24 hours, surveillance aircraft flying overhead. The J-Star surveillance aircraft flew overhead just before dusk last night. We have seen at early dawn this morning other U.S. warplanes in the sky over the Tora Bora mountains.

And also at night we have heard, over last night, the signature of the U.S. special forces in this area, that is night flights by helicopters that have no lights on. We can hear them. They're flying in the valleys here. They're flying low and close to the ground. We cannot see them. Their lights are off -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, Nic, does the activity seem to have slowed down at all over the last 24 hours or actually picked up?

ROBERTSON: Very difficult to judge. Eastern Alliance forces here provide security for U.S. special forces. And for that reason, we are kept down off the mountains. We did go up to one of the locations, where we knew U.S. special forces were. We can see them. They were with the Eastern Alliances fighters. The Eastern Alliance fighters, however, told us to leave. They said come back tomorrow. That would be today. We'll try again, but that's what's been happening here over the last few weeks, that Eastern Alliance forces do not let us get close access.

So it's very difficult to judge. We are looking at one piece of the jigsaw of what's going on in the Tora Bora area. This is one access point to the mountains here. There are other access routes into the mountains. And there are believed to be more special forces going into the Tora Bora area from those areas.

So we only have one small fraction of the jigsaw puzzle here. And what see is that the U.S. special forces are still working in this area, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you, Nic. That's CNN's Nic Robertson in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. Thank you, Nic.

Well, the U.S. Central Command says that American bombers took aim at a group of Taliban leaders today. Those missiles hit their target near a town in Eastern Afghanistan.

CNN's Jonathan Aiken now at the Pentagon with more.


JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, U.S. planes continuing to go after what the Pentagon calls "targets of opportunity."

(voice-over): And opportunity appears to have presented itself on Friday. That's when two B-1, B bombers fired precision-guided missiles, or what the Central Command is calling a Taliban leadership complex not far from the town of Gardez. That's a town about 60 miles south of Kabul.

There is no indication how many people may have been dead from the attack or who may be among the dead. According to the U.S. military, those missiles scored a direct hit.

Meanwhile, the Kandahar Air Base, the Marine base at Kandahar Airport, the number of detainees there continuing to grow. 63 more were brought in on Saturday. And that brings the total number of detainees at Kandahar to 125. And the total number of detainees held by the U.S. in the region now at 136.

Preparations under way too at Kandahar for arrival of the various elements of the U.S. army's 101st Airborne Division. The Screaming Eagles expected to take possession of the base at Kandahar Airport sometime in the next few weeks.

Preparations under way, too, at the Guantanamo Naval Base on the southeastern tip of Cuba. The base there has been told to draft plans for a high security detention facility, that's capable of holding several hundred people. This is a decision that is not sitting well with the government of Fidel Castro, which was strongly critical of the U.S. plan Saturday.

(on camera): Sources though have told CNN that Guantanamo was likely to be, what they call a "secure home for senior al Qaeda and Taliban detainees."

Jonathan Aiken for CNN at the Pentagon.


CALLAWAY: Well, a standoff between wounded al Qaeda fighters and Afghan guards continues at a hospital in Kandahar. Several armed al Qaeda warriors barricaded themselves inside one of the wards Tuesday and refused to surrender. They're threatening to blow themselves with their own grenades. Guards, who have surrounded the building say their patience is now wearing thin.

The international security force that will be responsible for keeping the peace in Kabul has officially hit the streets now. Britain expects most of its troops to start arriving the first week of January. That's depending on a deal with the Afghan government, but 15 British Royal Marine commandos joined Afghan police and briefly patrolled streets around the park in the Afghan capital today.

Well, Afghanistan might be free from the oppressive rule of the Taliban, but a far more subtle enemy still holds many people there hostage.

Here's CNN's John Vause with more on the toll taken by decades of harsh living.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everywhere here, there are constant reminders of the pain of the past. Ruined buildings, abandoned tanks, infrastructure falling apart. There were the years without music, without television, without fun, when women were brutalized, kept indoors. And after years of drought, the countryside is brown and food is scarce, while poverty abounds.

While many have been left physically scarred, many others have been scarred emotionally.

"For my 14 years in the psychiatric field in each family I've met, there is at least one person who has psychological problems," says Dr. Awara, who is the assistant director of Kabul's mental hospital. He runs an outpatient clinic on most days, treating dozens of patients, all suffering from symptoms of depression.

Like Hama Yun (ph), who lost his government job when the Taliban came to power. "I suffered from insomnia and it got worse. Then I became apathetic." He says he doesn't want to be around people and lost interest in his family.

So, too, Salaam, just 15. She told me she's been taking medication for depression for the past four years. She blames the Taliban's treatment of women for many of her problems.

Mohammed Asad (ph) is the pharmacist at Kabul's Hospital. He has little medication, only what was donated by the World Health Organization months ago. Mostly, he uses mild sedatives to treat depression. He knows it isn't ideal, but he says he has little choice. It's all he's got. And here, if the patient doesn't respond to medication, they still use electric shock therapy.

Then there are those who use heroin to escape their problems. Dr. Awara (ph) says they can do little to treat these patients. They simply don't have the resources.

(on camera): There's no way to know just how many Afghans are suffering from form of depression. No official numbers are kept. But doctors here say from their experience, it is common and widespread and hardly surprising, given everything that has happened over the past two decades.

(voice-over): Still, they say, a new government and new optimism may help cure this national depression, but doctors and aid workers here are worried. What will happen should this administration go the same way as so many before it? How much more disappointment can one generation take?

John Vause, CNN, Kabul.


CALLAWAY: Well, some Muslim Marines are making their contribution to try and improve the war scarred Afghan landscape. They're giving a mosque a little tender loving care. The structure was damaged by rangers in the initial taking of the city of Kandahar. And now, some U.S. Marines have been removing debris and cleaning it up on their own time.

For a special in-depth look at the latest on what's happening inside Afghanistan, just log onto and you can track events through a time line or check out a photo gallery of newsmakers. And as always, the AOL key word is "CNN."

Now to some neighbors of Afghanistan, the nuclear rivals of India and Pakistan. They're moving closer to what could become an all-out war.

CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett has more on the Bush administration's efforts to keep things from heating up even more than they already have.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From his ranch in central Texas, President Bush telephoned the leaders of India and Pakistan, appealing again for calm between the nuclear armed powers.

Meanwhile, war preparations intensified. Pakistanis and Indians living on the border fled in panic. And Pakistan moved some troops from the Afghan border, in case of an Indian assault. That was the last thing the Bush White House wanted to see. Those Pakistani troops were deployed to intercept fleeing al Qaeda and Taliban.

India remains enraged over the mid-December terrorist attack on its Parliament, an attack India blames on terrorist groups based in Pakistan.

L.K. ADVANI, INDIAN INTERIOR MINISTER: We have been suffering from terrorism for the last 15 years. But this time, the Pakistani terrorists have gone too far.

GARRETT: Pakistan says it's arrested suspected terrorists.

ABDUL SATTAR, PAKISTAN FOREIGN MINISTER: What we have done is to place these people under detention, so that they cannot carry out any further activity detrimental to peace.

GARRETT: After receiving a war briefing Friday from the commanding general of the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said he was trying to defuse the India-Pakistan powder keg.

BUSH: Where my government and my administration is working actively to bring some calm in the region, to hopefully convince both sides to stop the escalation of force.

GARRETT: Using the same logic as the U.S., India says it has a right to strike Pakistan as a part of the war on terror. But since September 11, Pakistan has been a stout U.S. ally against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

Even so, Mr. Bush can't ignore attacks on India, the world's largest democracy. On Friday, he praised Pakistan for acceding to U.S. demands and arresting terrorists.

BUSH: I'm pleased to note that President Musharraf has announced the arrest of 50 extreme terrorists, extremists or terrorists. And I hope India takes note of that.

GARRETT (on camera): India-Pakistan dispute brings equal measures of peril and opportunity. War would vastly complicate U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and weaken the anti-terror coalition. But if Pakistan moves against terror cells and both nations commit to negotiations on other issues, the White House believes India and Pakistan might be able to bury a deadly, decades-old conflict.

Major Garrett, CNN, Crawford, Texas.


CALLAWAY: Pakistan's foreign minister has much more to say of the rising tension between India and Pakistan. Abdul Sattar is a guest on CNN's "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer tomorrow at noon Eastern time, 9:00 a.m. Pacific.

Stay with us, everyone. She is a woman who helped shape U.S. policy and commands the attention of presidents and world leaders. Coming up, a close-up of Condoleezza Rice. Also, how September 11 has turned the American dream into a nightmare for some.


CALLAWAY: Welcome back, everyone. The inner circle of the Bush administration is charged with giving the President Council in advice. And one of the members of that group is a woman helping to shape policy and help make history.

In our continuing series, "Profiles of Leadership," CNN's John King looks at national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Condoleezza Rice had the President's ear long before the tragic events of September 11. The first woman to serve as national security adviser was the architect of the September 1999 Bush campaign speech, that is the foundation of administration policy now.

BUSH: Let me be clear about this, our first line of defense is a simple message. Every group or nation must know that if they sponsor such attacks, our response will be devastating.

KING: Now Condi Rice is the gatekeeper of a wartime national security team. KEN DUBERSTEIN, FMR. REAGAN CHIEF OF STAFF: Isn't it great that he's getting the advice from a Colin Powell and a Don Rumsfeld and a Dick Cheney and a Condi Rice? That's the way America does its very best.

I don't see any problem whatsoever. In fact, I only see health.

KING: Just days before the terrorist strikes, Rice took pains to dismiss talks her proximity to the President was causing tension.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Nobody should by any means be confused here. I'm not the Secretary of State. The President doesn't need two Secretaries of State. He's got a very fine one.

KING: The National Security Council meets almost daily now. And by all accounts, the team is functioning well.

JIM STEINBERG, FMR. DEPUTY NAT'L SEC. ADVISER: She's obviously getting the support she needs from the key actors. But at a time like this, getting all the elements to fit together (INAUDIBLE) diplomacy, the military, all the economic activity that's going on around this, that's when this process is working its best. And that's the part that she's responsible for.

KING: Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld may take the lead, but Rice also is a major player in communicating the administration's views.

RICE: If I did not have respect for al Jazeera, I would not be doing this interview. I think it's important that there be a network that reaches broad Arab audiences.

KING: She was a National Security Council deputy in the first Bush White House. And later, as Professor Rice at Stanford, she called the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty obsolete, a view now central to the President's delicate effort to fundamentally reshape U.S. Russia relations.

Ask a question about sensitive data and get a glimpse at Rice's trademark caution.

RICE: I don't want to comment on what we are or are not seeing. And I think you'll understand that.

KING: Soft spoken by choice, but not afraid to talk tough when the issue is Saddam Hussein.

RICE: Obviously, we would like to increase the pressure on him. And we're going to go about doing that.

KING: Or Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat.

RICE: It is extremely important to separate yourself from international terrorists. You cannot help us with al Qaeda and hug Hezbollah. That's not acceptable, or Hamas. KING: Also, not shy about taking after Democrats who question the President's standing on the world stage.

RICE: You don't question the President's leadership as he's leading -- as Air Force One is taking off. It's really frankly appalling.

KING: It is clear Mr. Bush not only values her advice, but likes her company.

BUSH: Senorita Condoleezza Arroz.


KING: Rice has lived the life in a hurry, enrolling at the University of Denver at age 15. She is an accomplished pianist. Though practice time is hard to come by these days.

John King, CNN, the White House.


CALLAWAY: We are following a breaking story this evening out of Lima, Peru, where a large explosion and fire apparently have killed a large number of people there in a busy shopping area.

We're going to talk now on the phone with journalist Claudia Cisneros. Claudia, what can you tell us?

CLAUDIA CISNEROS, JOURNALIST: Well, Catherine, a fire chief Poulio Nicolini (ph) on the scene since the fire started, is talking about at least 100 people dead and an undetermined number of people injured, probably counting the dozens of people.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m. local time in downtown Lima in a very crowded commercial area. Especially at this time of year, because people go there to buy fireworks for the end of the year. This is also an old, historical place in downtown Lima. And there's several old houses that have crumbled down. There were lots of people in these two commercial galleries at the moment the fire started. And...

CALLAWAY: Well, Claudia, let me interrupt you here. Are you saying that the fireworks exploded as part of this? Could you explain a little bit what you mean? It wasn't just a fire then? The fireworks were involved in this?

CISNEROS: Right, well, there is no confirmed cause of the fire at this time, but firefighters do believe that indeed the fireworks there stopped sometime in very unsafe way, may have contributed, if not started it.

This still to be investigated, but at this time, it's for sure firefighters are saying that they have -- for the fire to spread a lot faster. CALLAWAY: Right, Claudia, we had some reports initially that the firefighters were having some problems because of low water pressure. And that the firetrucks even had trouble getting to the scene as well?

CISNEROS: Yes, this is like I said a historical site, place in downtown Lima. The streets are very narrow, at this time of year, very crowded. It's a place where many people go at this time of year to -- just to have a nice night and walk around. And also, like I said, to buy different articles, such as fireworks, preparing for the end of the year. So there was initial problems to set up and get the fire trucks. And it's also true there were some problems of water pressure in some of the points.

At least four blocks are involved in this fire. So we know there's some 440 firefighters at this time on the scene, trying to control the fire. Also, Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi on the scene supervising. And we have word that President Alejandro Toledo is returning from a trip he was on his way to north of Peru to be on scene.

CALLAWAY: Claudia, is the fire under control now? What is the situation now there?

CISNEROS: Well, it is not. It is not. The firefighters are still on the scene fighting to control the fire. We know that at this time, there's still people being rescued and being transported to local hospitals with burn injuries, asphyxiation. They're also witnesses' accounts saying that people were jumping out the windows of several buildings, trying to get away from the fire -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: A horrific scene there in Lima, Peru. That's journalist Claudia Cisneros. Thank you for joining us, Claudia, with your information.

Just to recap for everyone, we have reports of a large fire in a commercial area in Lima, Peru. Apparently a fire broke out, igniting some fireworks there. We have reports that as many 100 people may have died in that fire, which is still burning right now. 440 firefighters on the scene there, first having some initial problems just getting there to the narrow streets. The crowds had rushed to see what had happened. The trucks getting -- could not get there. Also some problems with some low water pressure.

Bad situation in Lima, Peru. We will continue to follow that situation for you and bring information to you, as it becomes available.

We'll take a break and we'll be right back with more.


CALLAWAY: You're looking now at a live picture of ground zero in New York. And it looks people wanting to see the site of the World Trade Center. We'll have a new vantage point there. Today, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announcing that the opening of several public viewing platforms around the wreckage there. He says the platforms will provide an area for tourists to see the devastation while respecting the site's solemn nature. The viewing platforms will open to the public tomorrow.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is getting ready to relinquish his power there. His term ends at midnight New Year's Eve after eight tumultuous years at the helm of the Big Apple. In a year-end interview, Giuliani said that he hopes to continue to be involved in New York's efforts to recover and rebuild from the September 11 attacks. He added he's ready to become a private citizen once again.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NYC: Generally, a year ago. I thought it would be very -- that I'd be very sad and very emotional about leaving. And I find that I'm very much at peace with it. And maybe it's because of what happened on September 11. I realize that things end, whether it's being mayor or your life, it ends. And part of being able to handle life is being able to handle the changes that take place there. So I'm ready for it.


CALLAWAY: This New Year's Eve, Giuliani will push the button that will send the ball in New York's Time Square, counting down toward 2002.

Stay with us, everyone. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" profiling New York Mayor Giuliani is coming up right after this break.




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