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U.S. Soldier Wounded Near Kandahar Airport

Aired January 24, 2002 - 09:55   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: As we've been telling you this morning, an American Special Forces soldier has been slightly wounded in a firefight with Taliban and al Qaeda soldiers, about 60 miles from the Kandahar Airport.

Let's get the very latest now from our own Martin Savidge, who is standing by in Kandahar.

Martin, welcome back.

What have you learned?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, as we obviously know, Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place. One of the reasons why you see us via nightscope here is we continue to be on the front lines of Kandahar Airport, an area that has seen gunfire itself.

A member of the Special Forces -- obviously, there was a Special Forces operation under way, in which they came across a pocket of Taliban or al Qaeda members -- they say al Qaeda -- and that there was an exchange of gunfire. In the end, apparently, a number of al Qaeda were taken into custody.

Now the question that still remains at this particular hour is where exactly did this take place? You mentioned 60 miles. Actually, we've been told it was 60 kilometers outside of Kandahar, which would have meant about 40 miles. We're not exactly sure in what direction, and we're not exactly sure when it happened.

Let's point out this morning when we got up, our time, there was a rumor going through the airport here that, in fact, something had happened. And we believe that it happened overnight. So this is probably what is coming to us now from the Pentagon. It takes a long time for news to filter out, especially if it involves the wounding of a soldier.

We also point out that when we're in the airport there, we mix with Special Forces all the time. We are hanging with them, so to speak, to use the vernacular. We are not talking about the missions. We see them come and go every day. They leave heavily armed. Every night they are leaving. Sometimes they fly. Sometimes they drive. They're very noticeable by the way they dress and look.

Operations going on all the time. It's clear that they stumbled across something significant, we believe, last night -- Paula.

ZAHN: So Martin, what does this indicate? That there are more pockets of al Qaeda resistance out there? Or is the Pentagon even confirming that?

SAVIDGE: There's most definitely Taliban and al Qaeda that are still out there, and still taking a very hostile position. They know, say, where we are right now, on the perimeter here. About two weeks ago, they had a fairly intense fire fight that went on for about 10 minutes or so. Almost every night and day, there's what they describe as a probe. In military terms, it's someone that is out there in -- quote, unquote -- "enemy territory." Sometimes just a curiosity seeker who comes and wants to take a look over the fence. Other times, though, they have noted specifically that there are groups of individuals that are coming here, and they can see them writing down and taking notes. They aren't writing notes in their diary; what they're trying to plot out is the position of the defenses of the Kandahar Airport here. They aren't doing it for a hobby. It could be they're doing it for some other reason.

It is quite clear that throughout Afghanistan, there are thousands of al Qaeda that have not surrendered, and still potentially are a threat to all forces here -- Paula.

ZAHN: Martin Savidge, stay safe yourself. Once again Martin bringing us to date on one of the Special Forces soldiers who is being described as slightly wounded.

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