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First Detainees Leave Kandahar; Airport Under Fire

Aired January 10, 2002 - 11:23   ET



DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Still even more breaking news to share with you. This time out of Kandahar. We're getting word that the first group of detainees has left Kandahar on its way to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

With more on that story, let's bring in our Bill Hemmer, who's on the phone from Kandahar. Bill?

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Daryn. Good evening from Kandahar. 17 minutes ago, a C-17 left the airspace here in Kandahar. The first group of detainees transported out of the detention facility here. 20 left, in two groups of 10.

I can tell you, it was very deliberate. The security was extremely tight. We watched the detainees come out in two groups of 10. Be sat down in middle of tarmac, surrounded by concertina wire or barbed wire. They were then taken individually, one at a time, up the back end -- the back ramp of that C-17, taken inside and secured. They were searched at least once, possibly twice. And we also noted that the beards have been shaven on these men. Again, 20 in the first group out. That plane left the runway, Daryn, about, as my watch, 18 minutes ago now.

What is curious to note right now, the base has taken up defensive positions. Apparently, right before that C-17 left the runway, there were shots reported at the north end of the runway. Some tracer fire was seen here at the base by many of us. White flares, red flares in the air. The base has been told to take up defensive positions right now. The lights have been cut. The airplanes that were on the runway have either taken off or they've cut their engines. We're standing by for an all-clear. We expect to get it, at some point. But right now, we're just waiting.

But again, the headline from here, Daryn, the first group of detainees, 20 of them in this group, now en route to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Daryn?

KAGAN: Couple of questions for you, Bill, before we let you go. First of all, we had heard reports earlier that the military was considering using Valium, giving Valium to these detainees to help subdue them in this trip? Any word if that's being used? HEMMER: Yeah, Daryn, about five hours ago, I went and talked with some of the doctors who were taking care of these detainees. They told me that it might have been a consideration somewhere along the line. But they insisted that there was a strong possibility that would not happen.

As I speak, Daryn, I can tell you the tracer fire is still going up in the air. Wow. Very bright in the night sky, here in the desert. It is a moonlit night, so when the white tracer fire goes up, it lights up just about everything on the ground. The base has fallen quiet. Which is extremely unusual here. We've been here for the better part of three weeks, and it appears that there is noise all the time. But, right now, somewhat of an eerie feeling. It is silent here in Kandahar at the airport.

KAGAN: Well, is it safe for you to go on talking to us, bill?

HEMMER: Yeah, I'm in courtyard. I'm fine.

KAGAN: Oh, okay.

HEMMER: I've got about 2,500 Marines around me. Don't worry about me.

KAGAN: All right. Then let me ask you, what about the route they're going to take from Kandahar to Cuba?

HEMMER: Yeah. What we understand, Daryn. There will be a stopover somewhere. That location has not been disclosed, for obvious security reasons. The C-17 that came in here, it's our understanding, that it's been retrofitted, to enable each detainee to have his own seat, chained down.

We're also told, in case there are emergencies, in terms of rest rooms, et cetera, it won't be necessary. Because the planes have been made. And in order for all detainees to stay in their seat for the entire flight. I'm under the understanding, 8,000 miles from here to Guantanamo Bay, about 20 hours flight time in total.

That does not, however, take into account the strong possibility that the plane is going to have to stop somewhere and pick up more fuel. It also thought, Daryn, that many of these detainees would be transferred from the C-17, that giant cargo plane, to a C-141. But, apparently, in talking with my sources here, they say that's not necessary. They anticipate they'll stay on that C-17 for that entire trip, again to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

KAGAN: And, one more question for you, Bill, about your report that they -- these detainees had their beards shaven. Any comment from the military on that? If that done to these men for security reasons, or if it was done against their will or for what reason was that done?

HEMMER: You know, Daryn, I can tell you, we have been flat out kept out of that facility here. There were strong considerations given to the Red Cross that comes in here on 24-hour basis. And also, there were concerns about violations of the Geneva Convention. That's why reporters not been allowed in side that facility.

So, if you take that fact on its face, you know, we have not been able to see these men up close. It may have been, Daryn, that their beards shaven some time ago, when they were first taken into captivity. I don't know. But I'm told hygiene was certainly a concern with a lot of these men.

But we had noticed it, again, when they came out on the tarmac tonight. And the other thing we noticed and I'm not quite sure the significance of this yet. But they've been wearing blue jumper overalls for they're entire detention stay here in Kandahar. Now they've been changed to orange. I not quite sure if it is significant at all. But that's what we noticed here on the tarmac a short time ago.

KAGAN: Got it. Bill Hemmer. Reporting from....

HEMMER: And Daryn if I could interject one more time, here.

KAGAN: Go ahead.

HEMMER: Another flare has just been fired up in the air. It's quite uncertain what's going on right now. But, as I mentioned before, the base is quiet, and the 2,700 men and women who guard this place are now in defensive positions.

KAGAN: All right. Well, we're going to cut you loose and -- my friend, I tell you, please be safe, more than anything else.

Bill Hemmer reporting from Kandahar. Letting us know that the first group of detainees being taken from Kandahar, making their way, eventually, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Naval base there.

Bill reporting that the prisoners or the detainees, as they're called, had their beards shaven as he saw them board the plane. And going to make their way -- although the route is unclear -- from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay. More on that and also, Bill, mentioning that this was amid a bunch of tracer fire. So the airport under Kandahar under some kind of attack as all this transport is taking place.




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