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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 12:24 GMT
Marines take Kandahar airport
US Marines clearing debris from runway
Marines cleared debris and hunted for mines
The Americans say their marines have taken control of the heavily damaged airport outside the former Taleban stronghold of Kandahar.

Hundreds of US soldiers cleared debris and searched the area for mines and booby traps.

"There is a ton of unexploded ordnance," Lieutenant Don Faul told the Associated Press. "There are active minefields all around. Our biggest priority now is making sure that the airfield is safe and operational."

A spokesman told the BBC their intention was to rebuild the airport, 20 km outside the city, and hand it back to civilian control.

Heavy fighting

Before the handover of Kandahar, there had been fierce fighting at the airport.

The anti-Taleban forces initially said they had taken part of it and had then withdrawn in the face of stiff resistance, mainly by Arab fighters.

More than 20 bodies were found at the airport, which was heavily bombed by the Americans.

US Marine removing an unexploded mortar
The airport is littered with unexploded mortars
A week after the Taleban surrender of Kandahar City, the marines moved in.

Some travelled by road convoy and cut off routes, while more were brought in by helicopters.

Officials said part of the runway was still usable and that some cargo planes could land.

However, there are still many large bomb craters as well as shrapnel and debris scattered around the area.

The Americans say they will hire local contractors to help rebuild the airport which could also be used to bring in international humanitarian aid.

Aid agencies have yet to resume convoys of food supplies into Kandahar because of the lack of security on the roads.

See also:

14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden tape divides world
13 Dec 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: New assault on Tora Bora
12 Dec 01 | South Asia
Red Cross probes Taleban deaths
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
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