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Blast Rocks Jalalabad

Aired August 9, 2002 - 07:15   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We've got some breaking news out of Afghanistan to report this morning. There are reports of an explosion in the city of Jalalabad. According to the Afghan Islamic Press, the blast rocked an office building there.
CNN's Matthew Chance is in Kabul with more details now.

Good morning -- Matthew. What have you learned?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Paula.

And as that news of that blast that trickles through to us here in the Afghan capital of Kabul, we're just going to build up a picture of what exactly took place.

Initial reports spoke of as many as 50 people being killed in the blast. We have been trying to get some confirmation of that, unsuccessfully at this stage.

The official that we have been speaking to here in Kabul, an official of the Defense Ministry, can confirm only four people dead at this stage. Other reports that are trickling out of the area, one quoting now the Associated Press, quoting a local military commander as saying that 12 people have been killed, but many other injured. It does seem to have been a serious explosion.

But conflicting reports also at this stage, Paula, about who exactly may have been behind it, whether this was a bomb planted intentionally to kill people, or whether it was some kind of construction accident.

We'll obviously bring you the latest details as soon as they trickle through to us -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Matthew, this explosion happened at the building of the Afghan Construction and Logistics Unit. What exactly was that?

CHANCE: Well, that seems to be some kind of an Afghan NGO, nongovernmental organization, or at least that's what it initially was. We are hearing now that it is, in fact, a private construction company that's employed by the government to embark on the reconstruction of roads and water dam projects and things like that. And so, it's the kind of company that would have used a lot of explosives to quarry through mountains, to quarry building materials as well.

It may also be one of the places, if it employed foreigners for instance, Westerners and such like, that may be targeted by the very active al Qaeda remnants and Taliban remnants. But as we all know, it's still very much active in some of the outlying areas, like in this area around Jalalabad close to the border with Pakistan -- Paula.

ZAHN: You have also made it very clear at this hour there's a lot of conflicting information coming out of here. One report suggesting the explosion happened as a result of something maybe perhaps planted inside a car. Another report saying that's not true, it was inside the building.

Can you shed any light on that? Or is it just simply too early to tell?

CHANCE: It seems to be too early at this stage, Paula. We are also getting these conflicting reports. Remember, that Jalalabad is a good six-hour drive from Kabul here, the roads are terrible. So we're finding it very difficult to get that information down to us. But you're right. We are having all of these conflicting reports.

One official saying that this was a car bomb planted intentionally to kill and to maim civilians; another report saying that this was caused by the detonation of explosives that had been stored in order to quarry building materials.

We'll bring you the truth of the matter, I expect, over the coming hours -- Paula.

ZAHN: And no matter what happened here, just a final thought this morning, on the level of security in place, because of fears that a terrorist attack could happen, not only where you are in Kabul, but in Jalalabad.

CHANCE: Well, certainly, you know, here in Kabul, there is a great deal of security. In fact, there is an international force on the ground, the ISAF, on the ground to try and stop these kinds of terrorist attacks that have been threatened by al Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers in the past.

But nevertheless, there have been a number of incidents. Just a few days ago, just a few miles from where I am standing right now, there was a clash with what government officials say were very dangerous al Qaeda escapees from prison with the security forces of the Afghan government. It left 13 of them dead, although, of course, it's not clear whether they were actually members of the al Qaeda, or whether they were just bandits who were confronted by the Afghan security forces.

But nevertheless, there are a lot of threats to Westerners, to the international community, to aid agencies and to ordinary citizens of Afghanistan from these remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban, as the U.S. forces continue their action across the country -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Matthew Chance, thanks for that report out of Kabul.

Just a quick reminder that the information that's coming in right now is not all that accurate, reports of anywhere from 12 people to 50 people killed in this explosion in Jalalabad. As soon as we can make more sense of these early reports, we'll bring them to you.




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