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Christiane Amanpour Reports From Islamabad

Aired October 15, 2001 - 15:58   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We apparently have some breaking news out of Afghanistan, and for the very latest, let's go to our Christiane Amanpour. She is on the ground in Islamabad -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, from our monitoring position here, we've tried all along to bring you incremental news from Afghanistan as best we can. And we've relied on sources inside Afghanistan in the various towns where we have sources.

Tonight, about an hour ago, we hear from our sources in Kandahar -- that is in the south of Afghanistan, the spiritual capital of the ruling Taliban -- that there has been what they call intense air activity. They described it as unusual air activity. It is different, they say, from what they've been hearing over the last week.

They believe they have heard helicopters in action overhead. They say that they have heard gunfire from above, and they believe they've heard Taliban return fire by anti-aircraft artillery on the ground.

Those, as I say, are the only details we have. We do not know what this actually means, who may be involved. We've already asked a Pakistani government spokesman whether there might be any helicopter combat operations taking place launched from here. They deny that.

As you know, Pakistan has said only search-and-rescue operations would be allowed to take place from Pakistani soil.

So just again, to reiterate, as we try to bring you incremental news of what's going on in Afghanistan, our sources are now saying that tonight, after a day of intense bombardment around Afghanistan, in Kandahar, they believe they've heard unusual air activity, intense air activity that they believe includes the use of helicopters.

Those are all the details at the moment -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Christiane, just to bring everyone up-to-date, it is about 12:30 in the morning right now in Afghanistan. Christiane, and also just to help the audience understand the context here, what is located in Kandahar? We know that it was presumably the headquarters of the Taliban. Many of its ruling figures were based there. But what more can we understand about what is located there? AMANPOUR: Well, mostly it is the center of the ruling Taliban. It also has military targets at the airfield and elsewhere around, which have been struck by bombs over the last week. Also, there have been -- there is there the compound of Mullah Omar, who is the leader of the Taliban and constitutes the really hard-line ruling body of the Taliban. That is what is mostly concentrated in Kandahar.

In addition, over the years, Osama bin Laden has been known to be living around there. Also, members of his, if you like, Arab foreign legion, the people who make up what is suspected to be the body of the al Qaeda corps there.

So, that is what -- that is the most significant part as well as perhaps some training camps around there. And we've been reporting over the last week, various hits that have been told to us by our sources there, hits inside the city of army bases. Just a couple of days ago, they said the headquarters of one of the corps commanders had been hit. At the airport, they said the airfield and targets at the airport had been hit. Very early on, their radar stations and other targets had been taken out.

But all along, they had told us that most of the activity was taking place either in direct military bases inside Kandahar or in these targets that we mentioned around Kandahar. And tonight, they're saying that they've heard much more intense, much more close overhead air activity, different than what they had heard before. They believe that it includes the use of helicopters. They believe and they say they've heard intense gunfire from overhead, and again, from the ground as well, which they believe is Taliban fire coming up.

The sources said that it was very intense and they then took shelter. It lasted about 20 minutes.

WOODRUFF: All right, Christiane Amanpour, bringing us the latest. And finally, Christiane, this coming from more than one source?

AMANPOUR: These are the sources that we've used. It's -- there are several, but they're in the same location.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Christiane Amanpour. She is reporting from Pakistan, of course, across the border. But they are in regular contact with sources, as she says, on the ground in Afghanistan.

And just to quickly recap, intense air activity over Kandahar. She described it as the sound of what they believe to be the sound of helicopters, gunfire, perhaps return fire. There's no indication who is involved or what is involved. But of course, the speculation has to be -- and you see Kandahar there on the lower center part of the map. The speculation has to be that perhaps, perhaps U.S. forces are involved.

But again, only speculation at this point. We have no way of knowing other than these reports that Christiane was just sharing with us. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT



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