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Six Believed Dead in Helicopter Crash, Gun Battle

Aired March 4, 2002 - 09:01   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: "Up Front" this morning: late word of American fatalities aboard a helicopter shot down in Afghanistan. There has been heavy fighting involving Americans in several areas of Afghanistan. Let's turn to our own Barbara Starr who is standing by at the Pentagon with the very latest on that -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula.

Well, Pentagon officials tell us now that they believe there are six fatalities from this helicopter being brought down by enemy fire in Eastern Afghanistan. The exact circumstances are not known, and it is not believed that everyone on board the helicopter died, but the initial word now is six fatalities.

The fighting in Eastern Afghanistan has been very tough, very nasty, there are hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters holed up in a series of caves, throughout these mountains. U.S. forces are now repositioning so more airstrikes can be called in, soften up some of those enemy positions before ground forces go back in.

The estimate is that there are about 1,500 coalition and Afghan and U.S. forces on the ground in the region that will move back in as soon as these airstrikes are done and some of the enemy positions are softened up.

But right now, six fatalities from this helicopter being brought down by enemy fire. And there are still numerous U.S. soldiers wounded. They are being medevaced out for treatment as quickly as the military can get them out of this hot zone -- Paula.

ZAHN: You had reported in your last report that this area has been under surveillance for a week, and the plan was to have local Afghan fighters go in to sort of lead the effort. Did that happen, or can we even confirm?

STARR: Well, yes. That's how this all began on Friday. About 500 local Afghans led the fight into this area supplemented by U.S. forces. They wanted to make sure the Afghans had a stake in this fight coming out successfully for the U.S. military -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right. Barbara Starr, thanks for the update. Once again, the Pentagon now confirming at least six fatalities coming from that downed helicopter.

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