Marines Control Kandahar Airport
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SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN (AP) _ U.S. marines took control Friday of the heavily damaged airport outside the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, saying they hoped to rebuild it with the help of local contractors.
Marines from Camp Rhino, southwest of Kandahar, rolled through the city overnight on their way to the airport, about 10 miles to the southeast. The soldiers then cut off access to the airport as fellow marines landed there in helicopters, said Maj. Christopher Hughes, a public affairs officer for Task Force 54.
Hughes said the marines were taking control of only a part of the airport and that their intention was to return it to civilian control.
They hoped to hire local contractors to help rebuild the airport, restoring a link to the outside world and providing a boost to the local economy, Hughes said.
An official of the new administration of Kandahar, Mohammed Yusuf Pashtun, said officials were hoping to reopen the airport in time for humanitarian aid flights next week.
Pashtun said the airport had been mined and booby-trapped by Taliban and al-Qaida fighters before they fled Kandahar on Dec. 7.
U.S. marines set up Camp Rhino on Nov. 25.