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Afghan President Unhurt in Assassination Attempt

Aired September 5, 2002 - 11:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In case you are just joining us, we had been reporting all morning there was an apparent assassination attempt against Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, this while he was visiting Kandahar, the region to the south of Kabul, the capital. The governor of Kandahar was wounded in the attack, apparently injured in the neck. He is being treated by U.S. forces at the Kandahar airbase, at the airport in Kandahar. Whereabouts of Hamid Karzai are unknown, but we are told that he is under the safe protection of U.S. forces, and is apparently still in the region.
For an update now, we are going to get a check-in with Andrea Koppel, who is standing by live at the State Department -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I've just gotten off of the phone with the wife of one of Hamid Karzai's brothers. She said her husband is in Kandahar and was with Hamid Karzai when this assassination attempt took place. She spoke with her husband and this is what she said he said happened, that there were five shots that were fired right when Hamid Karzai was in the car along with the governor of Kandahar.

He, obviously, survived. There was an Afghan soldier who walked up to the car and began firing. One of the local Kandahar guards took this man to the ground, and then special forces took over and apparently fired shots at him. He is believed to have died.

Right now, what I'm being told is that Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, may be airlifted by helicopter out of Kandahar. Right now, as you might imagine, everything is bedlam there. But according to the brother who was standing right nearby where this happened. He believes that it was an assassination attempt, and that his brother was the target of that. You'll remember, Anderson, that in recent months, the vice president of Afghanistan was assassinated in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

The security there is obviously not safe and it's not secure, which is why U.S. special forces had been guarding Hamid Karzai for the last couple of months, and in fact, State Department diplomatic security forces are suppose to be going over to take over from U.S. special forces. But as things stand right now, Hamid Karzai is safe, his brother is with him, they are all there for the wedding of another brother. And it's our understanding that they're trying to get Hamid Karzai airlifted out of Kandahar to a safer place.

COOPER: Andrea, I should point out, that while you were speaking, we were showing some of the first photographs that we've seen from today. They were still photographs taken earlier today in Kandahar. We are showing them again. You probably can't see it, Andrea. It's a picture of Hamid Karzai standing up in a vehicle that seems to be driven by U.S. special forces.

I noticed two men are wearing sunglasses, appear to be Oakley sunglasses, which is typical of U.S. forces. Again, these are the first pictures CNN is showing. Any sense, Andrea, on when he may be airlifted out?

KOPPEL: My understanding is that this was something they were trying to do immediately, which is why we weren't able to get either Hamid Karzai or his brother on the telephone. They were all involved right now in trying to get Hamid Karzai out of Kandahar.

But as things stand right now, they believe that he is safe and the gunman, much to the surprise of many who were there, was an Afghan soldier.

COOPER: Is there any sense of whether this may affect whether or not the diplomatic security services take over protection for Hamid Karzai. As you mentioned, it has been special forces who have been protecting him, but diplomatic security is different, and it's under the hierarchy of the State Department, isn't that correct?

KOPPEL: Yes, I think it's too early to say, and I think that it, an assassination attempt against Hamid Karzai, does not come as a surprise. It is a lawless country there. I would imagine that it wouldn't change plans, diplomatic security services, protect everyone from Secretary of State Colin Powell to all visiting dignitaries, and I think that the Bush administration has full confidence in DSS, that they would be able to take over for the special forces. I am told that could happen at the end of this month.

COOPER: Andrea Koppel, working the story for us, thank you very much,

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