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Border Afghan City Falls to Taliban; Greece Wildfires. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired August 7, 2021 - 00:00   ET





MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.

America's long promised withdrawal from Afghanistan is almost complete but peace nowhere to be found there. Instead, the Taliban advancing relentlessly. It is displacing hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians.

On Friday, the key city Zaranj near the border with Iran became the first provincial capital to fall to the Islamic militants. The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan had this to say, issuing a strong warning.


DEBORAH LYONS. U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: In the past weeks, the war in Afghanistan has entered a new, deadlier and more destructive phase.

The Taliban campaign during June and July to capture rural areas has achieved significant territorial gains. From this strengthened position, they have begun to attack the larger cities.


HOLMES: Now Kandahar is one of those larger cities, now under attack. It is strategically important and Afghanistan's national army is fighting, desperately, to maintain control. But Kandahar's half million residents have few means of escape and fewer options. Our Clarissa Ward is in the besieged city.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the road to Kandahar's front line, there is still civilian traffic, even as the Taliban inches deeper into the city. Afghan commandos have agreed to take us to one of their bases.

WARD: This used to be a wedding hall. Now it's the frontline position.

WARD (voice-over): Most of the fighting here happens at night. But Taliban snipers are at work 24 hours a day.

WARD: From snipers?


WARD (voice-over): The men tell us the Taliban are hiding in houses just 50 yards away from us.

WARD: And they shoot from people's homes? They shoot from civilians' houses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you see this is all civilians' homes. We cannot use, you know, the big weapons, the heavy weapons.

WARD (voice-over): Up on the roof, Major Habibullah Shaheen wants to show us something.

WARD: So you can actually see the Taliban flag just over on the mountaintop there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are flag.

WARD (voice-over): It's been nearly a month since the Taliban penetrated Afghanistan second largest city. Since then, these men haven't had a break. U.S. airstrikes only come in an emergency. The rest of the time it's up to them to hold line.

"We feel a little bit weak without U.S. airstrikes and ground support and equipment," he says, "but this is our soil and we have to defend it."

GUL AHMAD KAMIN, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, KANDAHAR: Bombardment using heavy weapons.

WARD (voice-over): In a villa in the eastern part of the city, Kandahari lawmaker Gul Ahmad Kamin is hunkered down. In decades of war, he says he's never seen the fighting this bad.

KAMIN: Millions of people in this city are waiting for when they will be killed, then someone will kill them, when their home will be destroyed. And it is happening every minute.

WARD: Just spell out for me here.

The Taliban is basically surrounding the entire city of Kandahar now, is that correct?

KAMIN: Definitely yes.

WARD: And so, where is there to go?

KAMIN: Nowhere. So there is only two options do or die.

WARD: Do or die?


WARD: And what does do look like?

KAMIN: That is the thing to convince different sides to ceasefire, to work on peace, to convince them to not to fight, not to get.

WARD (voice-over): But that is a tall order, in a city where war has become part of everyday life.

WARD: You can probably see there's a lot more cars on the road than there were previously and that's because in just two minutes at 6:00 p.m., the cell phone network gets cut across the city and that's when the fighting usually starts.

WARD (voice-over): Throughout the night the sounds of gunfire and artillery pierce the darkness. Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban. They are intent on taking it back and the government knows it cannot afford to lose it.


WARD (voice-over): By day, an eerie calm holds. The U.N. says more than 10,000 people are now displaced in this city. On the outskirts of town, we find 30 families camped out in an abandoned construction site.

WARD: (Speaking foreign language).

He's saying that none of these children have fathers, all of their fathers have been killed in the fighting.

WARD (voice-over): Thirty-five-year-old Rubbina fled with her two daughters to escape the fighting after her husband was shot dead. But still, it gets closer and closer.

"Last night I didn't sleep all night," she says, "and the fear was in my heart."

In the short time we are there more families arrived. Street vendor Mahmad Ismael says they fled the village of Malajad after an airstrike hit.

"Three dead bodies were rotting outside our home for days but it was too dangerous to get them," he says.

"The Taliban is attacking on one side, the government is attacking the other side. In the middle, we're just losing."

Back at the base, dust coats the chairs were wedding guests would normally sit as the siege of Kandahar continues, life here is in limbo with no end in sight -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kandahar.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: The United Nations is urging restraint on all sides in the latest border skirmish between Hezbollah and Israel. The militant group has claimed responsibility for firing more than a dozen rockets from Lebanon toward Israel on Friday.

Hezbollah's first such provocation in many years. Israeli military says it retaliated with strikes against the launch sites. The IDF also said it does not belief Hezbollah is trying to escalate a confrontation, because most of the rockets that it did not intercept landed in open farmland.

Now the final round of the women's Olympic golf is being suspended to the threat of lightning from tropical storm Mirinae. The final group was just 2 holes away from completion. Play scheduled to resume shortly. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain and some wind gusts to Tokyo but it will be gone in time for Sunday's closing ceremony.


HOLMES: All right, scores of unrelenting wildfires are devastating parts of Greece, forcing hundreds to flee their homes. And officials say 98 new fires broke out in just the past 24 hours. Some of the most dangerous ones burning just outside Athens. Once again, a blaze ignited near the ancient site of Olympia.


HOLMES: Hundreds of firefighters are working around the clock to try to bring those fires under control and also evacuate residents in danger. At least 20 people have been taken to hospitals and a volunteer firefighter has died.

As new fires break out every day, they are scorching everything in their path, including many animals. Elinda Labropoulou shows us some of the massive damage left behind and the challenges the firefighters still face.


ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Smoke-filled sunrise over a charred farm in Greece. Many of the animals who once grazed in these fields did not live to see the new day. Those that did look shell- shocked, some of them burned.

The farmers says wildfires engulfed everything. The wreckage still steaming from the ferocity of the flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A catastrophe. The fire came around midday with swirling winds and homes were burned. A lot of animals burned to death, rabbits sheeps (sic), dogs, everything.

LABROPOULOU (voice-over): Dozens of fires are burning throughout the country, fueled by temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius. Officials say it is a dangerous and unpredictable situation.

Countries like France, Sweden, Switzerland and Israel are sending manpower and equipment to help in the fight.

But for firefighters north of Athens, that aid cannot come soon enough as they battle town by town to try to stop the spread of the blazes, a struggle made tougher as the fires have reignited from hot temperatures and high winds.

Thousands of people have been evacuated. There has been intense aerial campaign in some areas, with helicopters streaking through the smoke and unleashing torrents of water on the flames. Some residents on the ground also pitching in to beat back the fires with brush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The House is behind here. You can see the roof. I'm not leaving. I sent my kids away. Whatever I can manage. This is a life's work. I just can't leave it.

LABROPOULOU (voice-over): The Greek Coast Guard mounted a major rescue operation by sea with the help of tourist boats to pick up more people, stranded on an island near Athens after wildfires cut them off and left them with nowhere to go -- Elinda Labropoulou, CNN, Athens. Greece.


HOLMES: The fourth wave of COVID starting to turn up the pressure on French hospitals. Medical facilities in some regions seeing a significant uptick in new patients, including those in intensive care.

And a government spokesman described it as a problem that is knocking on hospitals' doors.

Meanwhile, a new COVID health pass is set to go into effect nationwide on Monday. It proves that someone is vaccinated or has a recent negative test. The pass will be required in many public places.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Stay tuned now for "MARKETPLACE AFRICA." I will see you a little later.