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Video Released of Assassination Attempt

Aired September 6, 2002 - 10:38   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have just gotten some pictures in from yesterday's story, yesterday's attempted assassination of Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. These are the first pictures we have of the actual assassination attempt. We are going to show them to you now. These pictures, obviously, were taken in Kandahar yesterday when two gunmen attempted to assassinate the Afghan president.
This is the first time we are getting a look at these. Those are the U.S. Special Forces, the men in the vests, with weapons at the ready.

Assuming those -- that would be one of the gunmen in a military uniform.

KAGAN: Part of the confusion came because the gunman actually was in a military uniform yesterday, so it gave him incredible access. And as you were mentioning, the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is guarded by special operation forces. They took very quick action, shot that man and two other people -- two other people who were standing by as well. We, of course, had covered that. That was breaking during our shift yesterday. First chance, though, to see that in action.

COOPER: The actual pictures. We are actually joined right now by Matthew Chance, who is in Kabul for us. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these latest images coming in, showing in graphic detail, Anderson, exactly what happened on Thursday afternoon when this assassination attempt was made on the transitional Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai.

In statements just a few hours -- or just a few moments ago, within the last hour, Mr. Karzai referring the attacker, Abdur Rehman, who is believed to have fired those shots, and was shot dead by the U.S. bodyguards, as you can see -- you can hear in that video. He was recruited a few weeks before this incident took place, Hamid Karzai has now ordered a full review of the procedure of recruiting officers, recruiting personnel, into the provincial security services. Because they are obviously, he said, great lapses in the checks that are made, to check out who these individuals are. He said this attack was a planned attack.

He said it was well known that he would be attending his brother's wedding at this time, and that he would probably be attending the shrine just outside the government house in Kandahar. And that, he said, is where the attackers were lying in wait for him. So he said he believed this was a planned attack. People were lying in wait for him, and he said he believed that al Qaeda and Taliban remnants were responsible for organizing and for planning this attempt on his life.

COOPER: Matthew, we are going to listen to this video, especially to the top of the video, where you hear heavy gunfire right at the beginning of where the videotape begins. Let's just listen to that right now.

That would seem to indicate -- with the initial firings, perhaps from the gunman, and then heavy return fire from U.S. Special Forces. Does that jive with what we have been told happened, Matthew?

CHANCE: It certainly does. It seems that as President Karzai was being greeted with quite a rapturous welcome from the people of Kandahar down there, a single gunman stepped from the crowd, and fired at least two shots into the vehicle in which he was sitting, alongside the governor of Kandahar. Then, of course, U.S. Special Forces, his own bodyguards, opened fire on this individual.

He also said that one of the people, one of the people of the crowd had jumped on this gunman, and was killed in the crossfire. Two individuals were killed as a result of this very heavy gunfire. It is not clear at this stage, whether they were killed by the lone gunman at this stage, or whether they were killed in that quite heavy exchange, or quite heavy delivery of automatic weapon fire you hear coming from the U.S. bodyguards -- Anderson.

COOPER: Matthew, we have heard reports today and CNN is reporting that a number of people have now been arrested -- a number of people arrested on Friday in Afghanistan by Afghan authorities in connection with this shooting. What, if anything, do you know about the people who have been arrested and what, if anything, have we heard about possible connections to al Qaeda or to the Taliban?

CHANCE: Of the people who have been arrested, we don't know a great deal. We don't even know exactly how many people have been arrested at this stage. Reports coming up from the area ranging from six individuals to as many as 18.

Certainly though, this is something the Afghan security services are focussing on, trying to get to the bottom of who was responsible for this.

But already, as we have heard from Hamid Karzai, from others in the Afghan government, the finger is already being firmly pointed to individuals who have "close links," in the words of the Afghan government, to al Qaeda, close links to the Taliban. People who have emanated from the region of Helmand, the province of Helmand, which was, of course, a very strong Taliban stronghold and continues to be a place where there is widespread support for the Taliban, and indeed for al Qaeda.

So this is the focus of the investigation. Individuals have been arrested. More are likely to be investigated too, according to security officials, in days ahead -- Anderson. COOPER: Matthew, give us a sense -- I mean, you have traveled extensively throughout the country. Give us a sense, how divided is Kandahar? You know, people often say that Hamid Karzai is -- though he is the president of Afghanistan, they call him the mayor of Kabul, basically, that his power doesn't really extend much beyond that. Obviously, he has a governor in place in Kandahar. Are there other warlords in Kandahar who are vying for power?

CHANCE: Well, Hamid Karzai himself insists that this did not come from within Afghanistan, this attack on his life, this assassination attempt, did not come from any internal disputes from within Kandahar. He thinks it comes from outsiders, enemies of Afghanistan, he terms them, who have planned his assassination to demonstrate to the Afghan people that the transitional government that he heads is not sustainable here in Afghanistan.

However, on the ground in Kandahar, it is well known this was, of course, a major stronghold of the Taliban, where their regime was effectively based, where Mullah Omar spent the vast majority of his time. And it still a place with strong tribal loyalties, strong family loyalties to the higher echelons of the Taliban leadership.

So, this is an area where the transitional government still has to tread very carefully. It still doesn't know who it can trust, and that's one of the reasons why Hamid Karzai -- Hamid Karzai has today said they will be going into more depth, more background checks into actually who they take on board as security officers working alongside the government, to be placed in charge there.

COOPER: All right. Matthew Chance, thanks very much, reporting from Kabul. Just to update, we showed you some of the first videotape of the assassination attempt yesterday. CNN also reporting that a number of people have been arrested in Afghanistan in connection with that assassination attempt.




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