AC: "You either panic or you do something. And he chose to do something."
29, 10 09, 22:00
Michael interviews Chris Turner, who provided private security for the UN guest house in Kabul that was attacked by militants yesterday.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: First up tonight, what it was like "Up Close" under attack by people driven enough to die for their cause and ruthless enough to try and kill as many civilians as they could in pursuit of it. Face-to-face with the Taliban during the brazen daylight attack on the United Nations compound right in the middle of Kabul; a suicide bombing, then wave after wave of gunfire. Excluding the attackers, at least eight people died including one American.
But there's a good chance it would have been a whole lot worse were it not for the American contractor, Chris Turner, you're about to meet. Joining us now with the story and the big "360 Interview," Michael Ware.
Michael, this is an amazing story Chris Turner has to tell, isn't it?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly every international worker in Kabul's nightmare to wake up to a Taliban attack squad assaulting your building. Now, Chris has been in and out of Afghanistan since the late '60s. And he says that he even fought against the Russians with the Afghans and at one point was detained as a suspected American spy.
But I spoke to him earlier today from Kabul about the events of that attack on the U.N. guest house.
WARE: Thank you for joining us, Chris. Now I know this area of Kabul where you live. It's fairly well-to-do. And there is lot of western aid organizations and even TV networks that live there. It's a fairly quiet neighborhood.
I mean, what was the first that you knew that you were coming under attack? Did you wake up to the sound of gunfire or what happened?
CHRIS TURNER, AMERICAN CONTRACTOR IN AFGHANISTAN: Yeah. You know, when you've been here as long as I have and heard as many gunfights as I have, you understand the distance that a bullet is from you. So I immediately knew when I heard the small arms fire that it was in my yard.
WARE: What was going through your mind, Chris?
TURNER: You know, to grab my rifle and as much ammo as I could carry and get downstairs to where it was happening.
WARE: And yeah, so let's go through this. You've been kind enough to draw us a sketch of your compound. And I mean it looks like a classic Afghan compound.
Take us through where you were when you woke up and where the attack was coming from.
TURNER: You know, I was on the third floor. It was a four-story building. I was on the third floor when I heard the gunfire. I immediately dressed, grabbed my weapon. And I went out into the hallway.
The U.N. Security Guards were out. We ushered as many people as we could roust out of the building.
The security guards went out to the front and at the time I really didn't know how the attack was taking place. I went out the back. There were approximately 24 people that went out the back of the house. I was the last out. And they hid in a wash room that was used by the maids to clean everyone's clothes in the very back -- against the back wall of the compound.
So there was a courtyard between me and the main house. I stayed in that court yard and stood guard so to speak over these people locked up in the wash room.
It became apparent that the action was in the front of the house. That's where the U.N. guards went. And I want to -- I don't want to portray myself as anything special.
The real heroes of this conflict were the men that died, the Afghan security, the Afghan police and of course, the U.N. guards that died in this battle.
I just happened to be the last man standing with a gun. So I was the one that ultimately protected the people behind me from being blown up by the suicide bomber.
WARE: Yeah, I mean, you just feel like you did what you had to do.
TURNER: Yeah. I mean I was protecting myself as much as them. You know, in those situations, you are past the point of thinking and you're just responding.
WARE: You're in the zone, so to speak.
TURNER: Exactly. Exactly.
My concern was just to keep the people that were in the front who were determined to get to the people in the back and blow them up.
TURNER: So by laying down cover and shooting at anyone trying to get into the back area, I was able to prolong their advance long enough for the military to come and to literally kill everybody involved.
WARE: Standing in this courtyard, I mean, you were fairly exposed while others are huddling in this wash room. Did you actually get to see any of the militants? I mean, I believe one of the -- you were able to ward off a suicide bomber. Did you see these guys?
TURNER: Yeah. Yeah, I saw one. The one that tried to come to the back of the home, the one I shot at. I saw him, yes.
I don't know if I hit him or not, but he fell back. And I hear later that he went through the -- went back to the front of the house and bombed these U.N. guards that were there and I think one female U.N. worker that was trying to escape through the front was killed in the explosion.
WARE: And, Chris, I know it's still very soon after, but how are you feeling about the whole incident now? Have you had time to replay it in your head? I mean how are you processing this?
TURNER: You know, I'm just very fortunate that I survived. And I'm tickled to death that as many people did get out of there alive. I think if we hadn't been armed, if there hadn't been private contractors there with weapons, it could have been a real massacre.
WARE: After an attack predawn on somebody's guest house, I mean there must be great nervousness now among the international community in Kabul.
TURNER: Yes. I think Kabul has always been kind of a haven and people felt, you know, extremely safe here. But I think those days are over.
WARE: Absolutely. And what about yourself, Chris? After all of this, with the Taliban threatening more, I mean, this doesn't look like there is peace going to be around the corner. Do you plan to leave in the next few days or are you going to stay there?
TURNER: No, no. I'm not leaving. I have a commitment to the people I work with. I feel I'm doing something productive in this country. I'm helping on a lot of different levels. I have no intention of leaving. I will buy more bullets.
WARE: Actually, Chris, I figured both of those answers before you even said them.
Thank you very much for joining us. And it's still an extraordinary thing what you did. Thank you very much.
TURNER: Thank you. I appreciate it. Bye.
WARE: And the U.N. workers who were at that guest house with him who survived the Taliban onslaught had been evacuated from the country, so we've been unable to verify Chris Turner's story.
But it certainly is an extraordinary one that brings to light, as I said, the nightmare that every member of the international community has living in Kabul -- John.
KING: Michael, a couple of quick things. Let's start with this cool customer. He says he hears the gunfire. He knows from experience how close it is. Most people would run, they would hide, or they would panic.
He says, well, I grabbed my rifle and as much ammo as I could get and I went down to fight them; pretty remarkable.
WARE: Yes, well I mean, I guess if he's been hanging around there since the late '60s and if he did fight against the Soviets, as he claims, then yeah, it wouldn't have been his first firefight. And to be honest, you either panic or you do something. And he chose to do something.
So, you have to give the man credit for keeping his head and thinking of others. You know, it's just something I guess that one hopes one never has to do -- John.
KING: And to the point, Michael, he made about the situation, he's been there so long. He just knows that Kabul is not the haven it once was. What does that tell you about the longer term challenge facing the Afghan government but also the President of the United States as he makes a big decision about troops?
WARE: Well, the fact that the capital now -- there is this rising tension. I mean it's never been a safe place. But at least you could move around. You could even go to dinner, I don't think many people will be traveling out for dinner this week during the evening.
But I mean that also speaks to what the fact that, you know, Highway Number One can hardly be used by local Afghans because the Taliban control it, the main national highway. It is just one more thing that speaks of the terrible dilemma militarily and politically that President Obama finds in front of him with Afghanistan. I wish the president the best of luck in figuring out his strategy -- John.
KING: Michael Ware for us tonight. Great insights and a fabulous interview. Thank you, Michael.