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Strike on Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom Under Way

Aired March 22, 2003 - 10:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome. It is Saturday, March 22nd, 10:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 7:00 a.m. in the western United States, 6:00 p.m. in Iraq. This is the third day of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Good morning. We really appreciate your being with us this morning. I'm Paula Zahn in New York. Joining me is my colleague Bill Hemmer in Kuwait City, plus Leon Harris in Atlanta, who will get things started with a look at what is happening at this hour.

Good morning, gentlemen. Leon, your turn.

HARRIS: All right. Good morning, Paula. Good morning, Bill. Good morning, folks at home.

U.S. war planners say that there may be -- there may well be, rather, tough days ahead in the march toward Baghdad, but the coalition, not Iraqi obstacles, is dictating the time line.

In a briefing that just wrapped up minutes ago, U.S. Army General Tommy Franks says coalition forces are attacking on their own terms, and that U.S. troops are searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Franks also released this video. He says forces are now targeting military outposts in southern Iraq, and he says Baghdad targets are being chosen to avoid civilian casualties.

Now at this hour, U.S. Marines are working to snuff out the last of the resistance in Umm Qasr, the strategic port city that fell to coalition forces yesterday. Troops have been going house to house, and helicopters are now focusing on one pocket of fighters there near a U.N. compound.

Man and nature have slowed down the advance of the U.S. Army's Third Squadron of the 7th Calvary. The advancing tank group has exchanged gun fire with Iraqi troops. And it's gotten bogged down by mud. Yesterday's charge toward Iraq was so speedy that CNN's embedded correspondent, Walter Rodgers, described the process as, quote, "a wave of steel."

Also at this hour, we're following conflicting reports on a U.S. Tomahawk missile going astray and landing in southwest Iran, specifically in the border down of Abadan (ph). Pentagon officials say that they are investigating that possibility. Hundreds of the ship-fired Cruise missiles were fired during the coalition strikes yesterday. Earlier today two British Navy Sea King helicopters collided after they took off from an aircraft carrier in the Gulf, and all seven people on board were killed -- one American and six British crew members. The cause of the collision is not known at this hour.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, protesters marched through the streets of Gaza and the West Bank to show their support for Saddam Hussein. They also called on his forces to launch strikes against Israel.

Anti-war demonstrators also snaked through three cities in New Zealand. That country, unlike neighboring Australia, has refused to commit troops to the U.S.-led offensive.

Now we have CNN correspondents posted all around the region, working to bring you unparalleled access and coverage of the strike on Iraq. Stay tuned right here for that.

ZAHN: And welcome. We begin now with two memorable images from the war today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind you, behind you.



ZAHN: That was CNN's Martin Savidge traveling with the First Battalion, 7th Marines. Members of his unit came under fire in southern Iraq in an exchange carried live right here on CNN. Fortunately, no one was injured when the rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby.

Now these are the images the Pentagon had been hoping for, Iraqi villagers warmly welcoming the advance of U.S. forces into Iraq. This is the border town of Safwan, which fell into U.S. hands with out shot being fired.

Last hour, CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks, holding his first news briefing with reporters since this campaign got under way, said between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqis have surrendered and have been taken into custody. He says thousands more have simply laid down their weapons and gone home. In fact, British officials say they believe an entire Iraqi division surrendered, which would mean anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 Iraqi soldiers.

President Bush is meeting with his National Security Council today as he spends the weekend at his presidential retreat, Camp David. Operation Iraqi Freedom is also the focus of his weekly radio address that is about to be aired.

We're going to perfectly time this, so Suzanne Malveaux will bring us an update from the White House, and then we'll get straight to that address. Good morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula. You're right. President Bush is at Camp David. We're told he's going to have a meeting with his full war council. That's what they're calling it now, his national security team. The vice president as well as Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, the national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the head of the CIA and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just to name a few.

This is really a place where he can think, where he can focus. It has state-of-the art technology. It is a U.S. Marine facility. This is a place also where the president went to shortly after September 11th terrorist attacks. That is where he was managing things from there. He feels very comfortable, and he can essentially talk to any one around the globe from that secure location.

Now this is also a place too where Bush Sr., during the weekend after the Gulf War, went to conduct his affairs. It's the presidential retreat where Clinton, as well, was holding meetings for the Kosovo conflict.

But Paula, as you mentioned before, General Franks talking about a number of highlighting issues here, first of all saying that it was shock, surprise and flexibility that characterized this conflict here.

It couldn't be more obvious that when this whole thing kicked off when it started, when the president actually made that decision to jump start this whole thing, when his intelligence said that there was a target of opportunity, perhaps even Saddam Hussein himself.

But again, we are learning that, yes, they do not know where Saddam Hussein is, but very interestingly enough, senior administration officials saying that top Iraqi leadership is in complete disarray, that they don't have control over the country, that that is something of course that is a good sign for the administration.

But still, a very familiar argument here that we're hearing, that it's not about one man or one personality, Saddam Hussein. This is the same argument the administration has been using about Osama bin Laden, his whereabouts still unknown.

But the president, of course, making the case it's a successful campaign.

ZAHN: You timed that perfectly. His radio address begins.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American and coalition forces have begun a concerted campaign against the regime of Saddam Hussein. In this war, our coalition is broad, more than 40 countries from across the globe; our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world; and our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.

The future of peace and the hopes of the Iraqi people now depend on our fighting forces in the Middle East. They are conducting themselves in the highest traditions of the American military. They are doing their job with skill and bravery, and with the finest of allies beside them. At every stage of this conflict the world will see both the power of our military and the honorable and decent spirit of the men and women who serve.

In this conflict, American and coalition forces face enemies who have no regard for the conventions of war or rules of morality. Iraqi officials have placed troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for the dictator's army.

I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm.

A campaign on harsh terrain in a vast country could be longer and more difficult than some have predicted. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment. Yet, whatever is required of us, we will carry out all the duties we have accepted.

Across America this weekend, the families of our military are praying that our men and women will return safely and soon. Millions of Americans are praying with them for the safety of their loved ones and for the protection of all the innocent.

Our entire nation appreciates the sacrifices made by military families, and many citizens who live near military families are showing their support in practical ways, such as by helping with child care, or home repairs. All families with loved ones serving in this war can know this: Our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.

Our nation entered this conflict reluctantly, yet with a clear and firm purpose. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. This will not be a campaign of half- measures. It is a fight for the security of our nation and the peace of the world, and we will accept no outcome but victory.

Thank you for listening.


MALVEAUX: Now, Paula, the latest polls show that two-thirds of Americans support the president in his effort here, the war effort. But it is split among really partisan lines. Democrats split 50-50 on that issue.

Of course as this mission becomes more dangerous, as U.S. soldiers enter Baghdad, they are looking at those poll numbers of course. They don't want to lose the kind of support they have.

But as it stands now, the majority of American behind this administration's push to get rid of Saddam Hussein.


ZAHN: Suzanne, there was a little bit of controversy yesterday when one of the president's aides, or I guess it was during one of those news briefings, basically said the president had not watched the beginning of this campaign on TV. And then that was later revised, right?

MALVEAUX: Well, yes, that's right. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked about that in a briefing several times, whether or not the president was watching the same thing that so many Americans were seeing, those dramatic pictures on the battlefield, those explosions. And he said he was not aware that the president was, at least not in his presence, that the president doesn't get his news from television. That was really a sensitive subject.

Later on in the day we found out from a senior administration official that yes, he was watching part of it with his chief of staff in the study right off of the Oval Office.

The sensitive issue here is whether or not the really gets a true sense of what Americans are feeling, whether or not he is in touch with the kind of sacrifice that is involved in putting Americans in harm's way. The White House, the administration, emphasizing that he does.


ZAHN: Go back to those polls for a moment, because although it showed the support for the president lifting as this campaign got under way, there were some interesting differences in the way Republicans and Democrats perceive this action. Can you expand on that?

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely, Paula. It's a good point because Republicans overwhelmingly supporting the president in his effort here, close to anywhere from 80 to 90 percent. But when you break it down for Democrats, it is really pretty much split 50-50. Not as much support among the Democrats.

And as you know, leading up to this conflict, there was a lot of -- a lot of infighting and some very harsh words coming from Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who said that the president had botched up the job of diplomacy.

And at the same time, we saw just yesterday members of Congress from both sides of the aisle signing support the president and the U.S. troops, trying to put that behind them.

But yes, still a matter of division, some division, within the American public and within members of Congress over this conflict.

ZAHN: Suzanne Malveaux, we'll be getting back to you a lot throughout the day. Thanks so much for that update.

We continue to focus on the right hand part of your screen. You see smoke billowing up from what appears to be a part of the Iraqi skyline. A number of news organizations reporting that some daylight strikes did happen earlier today. We're not sure exactly what was targeted, but our own General Shepperd says he believes, based on the black smoking rising from the target site, it could very well have been some sort of fuel depot. We'll keep you posted on that.

Now, members of the unit of the First Battalion 7th Marines continue to make their way toward Baghdad. At one point earlier in the day, we were told they were about 160 miles from that city.

Let's check in with Walt Rodgers, who is embedded with them, to give us a better understanding of how what he has seen squares with what we've just learned from General Tommy Franks.

Walter, what is the latest, and what have you seen?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What General Franks said was pretty consistent with what we've seen throughout the day. I should point out I'm with the 3rd Squadron, U.S. 7th Cavalry.

But there was one question which General Franks glided over, which was not consistent with what we've seen. The question which he was asked but did not answer was, "Are the Iraqis fighting harder than you originally anticipated?"

Now, the reason I point that out is because behind me you can see units of the 3rd Squadron U.S. 7th Calvary parked along the side of the road, where they have been parked for over six hours now. Those units were supposed to be moving toward Baghdad at this hour, moving in that direction. And it now looks like they're going to be sitting there perhaps for the better part of a night.

The reason for this is that, moving down this road, the U.S. 7th Calvary encountered a rather surprisingly large Iraqi unit. And that Iraqi unit put up a considerable fight, so much so that the commander of this unit did not want to -- that is, the commander of the 7th Calvary did not particularly want to run his troops into that unit -- into that Iraqi unit, the reason being there's some unusual topography ahead. We can't discuss what that is.

So again, the 7th Calvary was supposed to be farther along, closer to Baghdad than they are now.

Let me give you some of the details of that scrap. The Calvary knew there were some Iraqis out there; wasn't sure of their intent. Then the Iraqi began firing mortars back in the rear toward Charlie Company. When that happened it was very clear that the Iraqis were going to fight and they were not there to surrender.

When the Iraqis fired their mortars, the Army began by firing some very heavy 155-millimeter Palladin artillery shells at them. That did not wipe out this Iraqi contingent down the road. Point of fact, there were close to 200 Iraqis, perhaps even more in that unit. And barrage after barrage of artillery fire did not take them out.

So the Army then sent out its lightly armed Kiowa helicopters, and the Army got a bit of a surprise there. Those Iraqi soldiers in that detachment still alive began firing heavy machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles at the helicopters. And the helicopters were not hit, but they had to bob, duck, dodge and weave to avoid that Iraqi ground fire, which was trying to shoot them out of the air.

Again, no casualties in this unit, 7th Calvary. No helicopters shot down. But it got rather dodgy up there to the point where the Calvary was sitting here with its tanks and they had to call in the Air Force. The Air Force then brought in their A-10 Warthogs. Those are rather slow jets, but they prowl over the battlefield with a huge Gatling gun in the front, and that Gatling gun blows everything out of the way, or almost everything out of the way .

Now the Calvary thought it could move after that, but the decision as to whether the Calvary should move at this point was bucked up to the divisional commander, General Buff Blount (ph), and even to the corps commander. And at that point, there was a general decision not to move these troops any further today -- that is, the 7th Calvary -- because of the rather unusually large Iraqi opposition that was up there.

Now, this is not a setback in any sense of the word, except that there was a nuisance factor there, and they thought that this unit would be further up the road...

ZAHN: Walt Rodgers, we apologize, we've got to break away from you. We have breaking news from Martin Savidge, another one of our correspondents embedded with U.S. troops.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, we're now heading west with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines. This is -- well, here, you can see me out the window here. This is our vehicle, looking through the rear-view mirror at me as we move along in conjunction with a convoy of the Marine unit that we're embedded with.

Take a look out just out here (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the wells that we can see burning in the distance there. It's a dramatic sight. The sun has already gone down, so the flames look brighter than they do in the daytime here. Not sure exactly what well that it is and where it is.

But you have heard that there are a number of oil wells that were set alight in southern Iraq. This would appear to be one of them. However, only nine about the potential of 700. That's quite remarkable, given the fact that this country could have looked like Kuwait at the end of the last Gulf War.

This is the convoy that we're tagging along with here. We're moving west. We don't have a destination as of yet, at least not one that's been revealed to us. Primarily, we're moving on to another area, probably to regroup, to get redirectioned. And then from there, beginning pushing off once more.

This is a relatively safe area. Military units have been -- U.S. military units have been passing through here all day long along this highway. It isn't just us that has been using this road. British forces as well, British tanks, British armored personnel carriers. It's amazing how much equipment, how much machinery, how many people have been pushing down from northern Kuwait and into Iraq.

And that drive is continuing on. The eventual goal of this unit, probably most of the other units, will be Baghdad.


ZAHN: Martin, you had some tense moments earlier today when you encountered a rocket-propelled grenade as you were embedded with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines. Describe to us what happened.

SAVIDGE: Well, it was one of those unusual things. There had been fighting going around the position where we had been all morning long. And we were somewhat lamenting over the fact that it was just too distant, we couldn't get to it. We were, as the old line goes, feeling like we were missing the action.

So we went out on what was supposed to be a routine demolition, blowing up some Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers that they had found abandoned. We were near a village, starting (ph) -- really my cameraman was out walking with another Marine. And the next thing you know, you hear "whoosh" and then "boom," and it was an RPG that had been fired. And it went directly between Scottie, the cameraman, and the Marine in front of him. A difference of two feet either way of either one of those people and they wouldn't be here now.

After that, force security went into effect. There were shots that were fired. Two (ph) missiles were brought up. It was believed that the RPG had come from a nearby building. And there was a lot of firing going on, but at the same time, the discipline of the Marines, stayed focused on the demolition job they had to do.

So you've got missiles going off, you've got tanks blowing up, and you've got APCs being set alight, and a lot of ammunition was flying through the air. It turned out to be not such a dull day after all.

ZAHN: Martin, General Franks said, although the campaign is going exceptionally well, there could be some very tough days ahead. What it is that the 7th Marines are most concerned about as you head north?

SAVIDGE: Well, I think that for the most part now they are just staying focused on the job they have. I mean, they're...

ZAHN: Martin, I'm sorry, I have to break you off. We have breaking news out of Kuwait right now with Bill Hemmer. Bill, what's going on?

HEMMER: Yes, Paula, first time in 30 hours, the air raid sirens are back here in Kuwait City, coming up just about 20 seconds ago. The air raid sirens that we've heard indicate that danger is here. There is a system in place to let you know danger is coming, danger is present, and that danger has passed -- in essence, the all-clear.

Every time we've gotten a signal, though, it's represented danger is here, which indicates, based on previous experiences, that some sort of missile has been incoming from the north headed toward Kuwait, be it Kuwait City or the desert to the west and to the north.

I should point out -- I want to emphasize this, Paula -- that every missile that has encountered Kuwaiti airspace has not had an effect in any way on either property or civilians or casualties.

And in the background, you might be able to hear the fire alarm go off here in the hotel. We've tried to synchronize the two only so that we can notify our colleagues throughout the hotel, whether they're sleeping from after a long shifts or whether they're up and working, let them notify what we're getting from the civil defense system here.

You heard Tommy Franks talk about six missiles entering Kuwaiti air space over the past two days. He says of the six, four have been downed by Patriot missile batteries, including one fired by the Kuwaiti military. One of the others fell harmlessly into the Persian Gulf, and another one fell in the northwestern Kuwaiti desert.

But again, just a few moments ago, the Kuwaiti sirens are back here. What this all means is not clear. But oftentimes, after we hear the first siren, a few moments later, we're given the all-clear. So if that happens, we'll get back to you.


ZAHN: All right, Bill, I don't want anybody in our audience to think you're taking unnecessary chances here. We know we have come to count on your normal excellent reporting. At what point do you need to seek safety? Do you need to go now? Because if you do, we'll let you go.

HEMMER: No, I do not. Thank you, Paula, I appreciate that. I can tell you we have a system set up here. It's worked quite well with us, in terms of communicating with the people we've hired to help us make these decisions. At this point, we do not have that signal. Therefore, we can stay here and still broadcast to you.

The siren died down, now it comes back again. We'll wait and see if anything comes of this. It sounds like that's the all-clear. Again, this repeats the pattern, Paula, that we have followed many times. So again, the all-clear coming quickly.

What I should let you know, though, oftentimes in the past, when we've gotten the all-clear, the missiles either come through this area here in Kuwait City or gone west of us into the Kuwaiti desert. We'll have to wait and see, based on what we hear from the Kuwaiti government as to what has happen at this point.


ZAHN: And once again, I don't want anybody to think you've become immune to the sound. It still has got to send a chill up your spine when you hear it.

HEMMER: Yes, I will tell you, it gets our attention, I'll tell you that. But we are -- we're quite aware, not only of the system that we have in place, Paula, but we also are quite aware of the, well, the inaccuracy, for lack of a better word, of the Iraqi missiles and whether or not they've been able to penetrate the Kuwaiti airspace or inflict damage or harm to anyone.

So if you take those two factors into consideration, we feel pretty comfortable and pretty confident here in Kuwait City.

Again, the all-clear is sounding, Paula, and again, that's the best sound we can hear.

ZAHN: We are happy to hear that all-clear sign, although we can't distinguish it as well as you can.

As you were speaking, Bill, we were handed a bulletin here that we can now confirm that four U.S. soldiers were killed on Saturday in central Iraq, according to a reporter from Britain's Sky TV, who was traveling with them.

Journalist Colin Brazier (ph) said the four reconnaissance scouts were ambushed while driving Humvee jeeps at the head of the column. Quote, "Rocket-propelled grenades were fired, one at each Humvee. They killed both sets of occupants."

Once again, breaking news for you. U.S. soldiers now confirmed dead in central Iraq. We're not exactly sure what their mission was.

It's interesting to note that General Tommy Franks, when he started his news conference about an hour and 20 minutes ago, started off with honoring the sacrifice of our armed services, or armed forces.

Right now, we're going to go back to Bill as we try to better assess the situation in central Iraq.


HEMMER: Yes, Paula, just again, I want to reiterate if you hear the sirens in the background, the all-clear has been given here in Kuwait City. We are out of danger for the moment.

And while we talk about that, want to get you to Baghdad right now. A member of the Red Cross is joining us here on CNN. His name is Roland Huguenin-Benjamin. This is the first time we have heard directly from the Red Cross that continues to work throughout the Iraqi capital.

And, sir, just in a general sense, what are you seeing and hearing in the Iraqi capital?

ROLAND HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN, RED CROSS: Well, exactly the moment of speaking just now, I hear powerful explosions that are rocking the part of the city where I am. And it just started minutes ago, and I don't really know where it is and what is going on.

HEMMER: Describe these explosions. And would you be able to compare them in any way to what you experienced about 21 hours ago, 9 o'clock local time, when the initial burst of that seven-second thunderous roar ripped through the Iraqi capital?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Well, given the distance and the fact that I was not at the same location last night, it's a little bit difficult. But it's definitely some form of large explosions that I cannot identify.

HEMMER: OK. One report came in that there's a possibility that people in Baghdad have dug ditches on the outskirts of the city, filled them with oil and then lit them on fire. Is there any evidence that you know of right now that may substantiate that?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Yes, it's very puzzling. I'm seeing large clouds of black smoke rising up further down on the horizon.

We have made a commitment to stay here as Red Cross workers, to make sure that people, casualties and poor (ph) people (ph) can be attended to and have sufficient surgical equipment to be attended to. But it really is quite a challenge, I must say, tonight.

HEMMER: Yes, tell us -- in addition to that, we also heard from the Iraqis earlier today, they're saying 207 injured as a result of the bombing last night. They say women were affected, children as well. Can you verify those numbers?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Yes, we go every day to the hospitals with our doctors to make sure that they do have enough supplies, surgical equipment. And to assess those needs, we do have to see the people that have been taken in, because we provide, of course, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) surgical equipment.

And I have seen that in the first hospital, there were over 100 patients, and where children were amongst them and women definitely. I saw them in the morning.

HEMMER: How many of those people you saw were military, sir?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: The hospital I went to, I was told that there were 15 military persons. The rest were civilians, obviously, women and children. And the other people we talked to were civilians.

HEMMER: And of the injuries you experienced, sir, and witnessed for yourself, what type? Can you describe them for us? HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Well, I was just talking to our own surgeon who was there. They have had 10 serious injuries that needed prolonged surgery. And apart from that, it was most of it wound excisions. There was one case of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HEMMER: What about fatalities? Do you have any confirmation on that?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: We have not seen them physically, but we have received evidence from the doctors that they were a few casualties.

HEMMER: You say a few. Can you be more specific?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: I heard about two or three at the first hospital I had been to.

HEMMER: What about the people in Baghdad...

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Our purpose is definitely not to publish statistics, rather to promote help to people.

HEMMER: Yes, I understand that, but knowing that our crew is no longer in Baghdad, I'm only trying to get the information from you as best I can.

Let's move on to another area. What about the people of Baghdad, in terms of food and water? It was our understanding that they had stocked well up on both of these items. Any indications that they may be running low at this point?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Well, people have stocked up on foods (UNINTELLIGIBLE) definitely, and they will be able to go for a few days on that. In such a situation, it also is (ph) a matter that you cannot get a hold of fresh product, such as fruit, vegetable, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of course you run out of them quickly.

Today there were just a few bakers who managed to open and bake, and there were queues of people in front of bakeries, because for two or three days, there had been no possibility of buying fresh bread.

Apart from that, all shops are closed, have been closed for three days. And people just live on whatever they have kept at home.

HEMMER: There was a big concern, I know your organization was very concerned, about the possibility of refugees fleeing Baghdad. Have you seen much evidence of that?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: No, I have no evidence of that in and around Baghdad. We've heard of movements of population in the northern regions, people fleeing cities toward the mountains and villages, in fear for their lives.

In Baghdad, people actually stay home on the ground floor. There are very few shelters and people have memories of '91 when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) war. And of course we are not in the secrets (ph) of strategists. But definitely, everybody is bracing himself just for another night.

HEMMER: OK, listen, I cannot see the video that we're sending back to the U.S. But it's being described to me as dark smoke drifting off on the horizon. If you could come to the present again, sir, what are you seeing from your location there?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: Well, it's really getting very dark now, but for the rest of the afternoon I was seeing these big black clouds. Now I distinguish them, but it's really rapidly getting dark. It's a little bit further (ph) up (ph).

HEMMER: Are you hearing any explosions?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: I heard some just in the minutes when we started our conversation. I heard two or three powerful explosions in a row. And now I hear the call to prayer from the next mosque.

HEMMER: All right, two or three in a row a few minutes ago. What about earlier in the day, did you experience any then?

HUGUENIN-BENJAMIN: I heard some thuds, but I was indoor and talking on the phone, so it was difficult for me to identify any of them. But I heard a few thuds earlier in the afternoon after the first siren.

HEMMER: Well, you've been an excellent source of information for us. Thank you, sir. We really appreciate you joining us here on CNN.

That's Roland Huguenin-Benjamin. He's with the Red Cross, working in Baghdad right now. And as he said quite clearly, quite a bit of anxiety about the potential for more bombing later tonight. He described two or three explosions a few moments ago. And we'll just have to see right now at nightfall whether or not the bombing continues there in central Baghdad.

More from Kuwait in a moment. The all-clear has been given. Here's Paula again, back in New York.


ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill.

We're going to stay focused on this live picture out of Baghdad. It is not certain what was targeted, although witnesses are now saying that after the sound of the first three explosions, they heard the sound of sirens, presumably from ambulances or police cars. They could hear that racing through the city.

Our own General Shepperd said -- and obviously it's dangerous for anybody to speculate what was targeted -- but he said, based with his very experienced eye, that when you've been looking at the smoke we've seen rising from that site over the last couple of hours because it's dark, it leads him to believe -- or in fact it wouldn't surprise him if it turns out it was a fuel depot that was hit in this daylight strike.

Let's quickly go to Christiane Amanpour, who joins us from the northern part of Kuwait with the very latest from there.

Christiane, what's happening?


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A helicopter flight over the port of Umm Qasr reveals the area is relatively quiet. And down below, British soldiers do some war tourism, looking at one of those giant billboards of Saddam Hussein.

Taking Umm Qasr was a joint operation. The 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary unit was under the command of the British Royal Marines Commando Brigade.

Now, U.S. Marines rest at the port after more than a day on the move. Some, like 21-year-old Corporal Jeremy Archer, had feared the worst.

CORPORAL JEREMY ARCHER: I expected a big war I guess, but they're all giving up. So it was easier than I thought.

AMANPOUR: Not all are giving up though. About three kilometers away from the main port there are pockets of resistance. The commander of the U.S. Marine unit sent up Cobra helicopters and fired artillery to destroy the Iraqi fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did resist. But once it appeared that they'd have to deal with some overwhelming firepower, they have a tendency then to give up.

AMANPOUR: The British commander says the resistance is isolated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hasn't been a particularly cohesive fighting force. It's been a D-30 gun firing a few rounds prior to its destruction, or a group of individuals firing.

AMANPOUR: It took longer than expected to secure Umm Qasr. And the military says it's still mopping up small pockets of resistance in the town. Nonetheless, the military says it plans to bring in the first elements of humanitarian aid perhaps within 48 hours.

Umm Qasr is Iraq's main commercial port. It lies at the mouth of the Shatt Al-Arab waterway, which flows into the Persian Gulf. This was an important strategic target for allied forces and will be the main port of entry for relief and other humanitarian goods.

Just yesterday, Iraqi ministers vowed that Umm Qasr would never fall. But hundreds of soldiers have given themselves up, and now they are POWs under U.S. and British control.


AMANPOUR: Now, the British and the U.S. forces say that they have pretty much met their objectives in this part of the country, and those were to secure Iraq's vital commercial and economic targets -- the oil, the ports, and of course the Ramallah oil fields as well.

There had been reports that there were wells on fire. And we'd always been reporting from here that it wasn't catastrophic, that the actual key things, which are the oil and gas separation points, were not on fire. And today, Tommy Franks at CENTCOM confirmed that indeed there were nine oil wells on fire out of 500, so relatively few, and those had been brought under control.

So the British and the U.S. are saying that they've pretty much secured and controlled all the important targets in this region of southeastern Iraq.


ZAHN: Christiane, you talked about some of the pockets of resistance the coalition forces were met with. What is it that they can expect to happen in the days to come?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, they say that it's just difficult, when it's in any kind of urban area, even if it's a small one like Umm Qasr -- it's very small; there are not that many people there. But they're talking about, for instance, the Iraqis, who have any number of weapons, whether they're machine guns, 82-millimeter mortars, other kinds of weapon. And what they're doing is, in some cases, getting out of their uniforms, putting on civilian clothes, you know, basic sort of disguising themselves and trying to harass the U.S. forces.

But as soon as the U.S. and the British respond with much superior fire, then they're quiet, and it basically goes away, that problem. But it takes some time, because you can't just go and, you know, carpet-bomb an area, you've got to do it carefully. And they're obviously very mindful of the civilian population as well.

ZAHN: Christiane, I'm just curious, as you've gotten closer to heavily or more heavily populated areas, if you've experienced what Martin Savidge experiences, which was hearing coalition loudspeakers telling the villagers to stay away and they would be safe. Have you encountered that?

AMANPOUR: No, I have not encountered that, because most of what we've seen is the Umm Qasr thing, and that has mostly been -- they've taken it -- really, it's been sort of a battle there. I mean, not a major battle, but they have done that, and it's not that heavily populated.

It's going to be interesting when they actually get to Basra. Right now, the forces are outside Basra. And I believe they -- the latest report was that they had secured the surrender of the Iraqi defenders outside Basra, Iraqi army units.

And then they're not actually going to go into Basra, they say to us. That's not a military objective. And what they want is to be invited in, if necessary. But otherwise, they're going to leave urban centers, for the most part, alone, which are not necessarily military targets.

ZAHN: And as they head out of these urban centers, what is their chief concern, Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Well, in the urban centers, their chief concern is to be welcomed, to be seen as liberators. They don't want to have any situation where they're going in against the will of the people.

But of course, you know, if you look at a map, there are some urban centers that they don't need to go into, you know, for reasons of military objectives, they don't need to go into them to get from A to B or to secure them. There are others that they do need to go into and to be able to use them as transit points or to be able to take them.

But what's going to happen, apparently, in this region, is that as the U.S., which is moving upward now past the Basra region and toward the west and on up to Baghdad, then the British will move in, and they will be securing and controlling the southeastern part of Iraq.

But so far, they're saying in this area they haven't had that much problem with urban areas at all.

ZAHN: Christiane, we understand there is some concern about a weather pattern that's going to be blowing into that part of Kuwait where you are within the next couple of days. Have you heard anything about that and how it might impact operations?

AMANPOUR: Well, we're right in the middle of it. I mean, I don't know whether you can see now, but we're a bit wind-blown, and it's been like this all day. Strong wind and this fine dust that has kicked up. It's not a dust storm right now, but clearly that, you know, it has an impact, depending on what operations need to be conducted.

Mostly it's difficult and uncomfortable for people. The U.S. and British say that their experience and their technology is obviously so far superior to what is arrayed against them, which is virtually very, very minimal at the moment, that they can deal with it.

But nonetheless, there are very uncomfortable circumstances, and it tends to get difficult for armored vehicles -- their tracks, their treads, tend to get clogged up -- and for helicopters, if it's very serious sandstorms.

But at the moment, it's uncomfortable but it's not massively serious, in terms of a sandstorm at the moment. So we're waiting to see what happens and whether it does impact operations.

ZAHN: We would love for you to stand by. We'll get back to you a little bit later on this morning, nighttime your time. Thanks so much, Christiane.

We are looking at this picture being broadcast live from downtown Baghdad. That same familiar cloud of smoke that we've been watching over the last two hours looks pretty much the same, although we are now -- can confirm that witnesses explain that they have heard at least five explosions in downtown Baghdad recently, five large blasts. We are lead to believe that there were no air-raid sirens sounded in advance of that and no signs of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire.

Now, if the time line we were told about at the Pentagon remains the same, we are expecting the first stage of the Shock and Awe campaign to last about 24 hours, which would take us to about 1:00 p.m. eastern time.

But I caution you not for any of us to sort of get hocked on time lines because General Tommy Franks, in his briefing that he held a little over an hour and 40 minutes ago, explained to us that some of the key part of this campaign is agility and flexibility. And he said there are going to be a number of things going on at one time.

We would love to have further clarification for you on exactly what was targeted in downtown Baghdad. We started seeing the smoke at the beginning of our show at 7 o'clock this morning. And our own General Don Shepperd said, based on the very dark plum of smoke that we see, it could indicate that a fuel depot was hit on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Now, in the last few days we've heard frequent references to the so-called fog of war, but sometimes the images are startling in their clarity. They tell their own story.


ZAHN: Right now we do the kind of reporting that we all hate to do and feared we would be doing. Four U.S. soldiers confirmed dead in central Iraq. According to a reporter traveling with these four soldiers, there was a position they were heading for at refueling and some sort of rocket-propelled grenade was fired, one at each of the Humvees they were traveling in, killing both sets of occupants.

Let's go to Barbara Starr, who has the very latest on this from the Pentagon now.

Barbara, what do you have?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, officials here are aware of that report, but they are pointing out to us almost every hour on the hour that the embedded reports in the field are getting information much quicker than they are back here.

If this does prove to be true, and no reason to believe it's not, it may not be unfortunately a big surprise. The Iraqi military knows it may not find an easy win against U.S. military forces, force-on- force so to speak, one large formation against another. They may find it easier to engage in this type of activities, relatively small fire at individual units.

Now, activities are also beginning to unfold in northern Iraq. We now know that U.S. warplanes have bombed a very key facility in northern Iraq in the last hours. This was a suspected chemical weapons factory, a compound of buildings in northern Iraq that was supposedly under the control of a radical Kurdish group called the Ansar Al-Islam. And it had long been believed by the administration that this facility was associated not just with Ansar Al-Islam, but also with members of Al Qaida. That facility now having been struck at least once, we are told. Possibly more missions against that to come.

Also in the north, officials are telling us they have yet to see any really large movement of Turkish forces into northern Iraq, but they do know that Turkish armor infantry lined up on the border. They assume that is an effort by the Turks to prevent a refugee flow into their country.

And finally, in that region, we can now tell you that about 35 ships, cargo ships, carrying the equipment of the 4th Infantry Division, which had originally been earmarked to go to Turkey and move into northern Iraq, well, those ships now are going to be turned and they are going to move through the Suez Canal and go down to Kuwait. The 4th Infantry Division now will be part of a follow-on force, not the original combat force.

Now, earlier today General Tommy Franks had his first encounter with the press corps in the Persian Gulf since the campaign began. He got right down to business. He said that he had no idea whether Saddam Hussein was alive or dead or where he was, emphasizing that none of that would change the focus of the campaign. General Franks said there was still plenty ahead.


GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS, COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMANDE: This will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force.


STARR: Paula, General Franks also confirmed what has been said here publicly, U.S. government officials, military special forces having repeated contacts with Iraqi military units and commanders hoping to get them to surrender.


ZAHN: Barbara, we need your help now as we look at this picture of downtown Baghdad, that same billowing cloud of black smoke not appearing to dissipate here. We have a number of witnesses describing hearing five explosions at about dusk.

Are you aware of any daylight raids?

STARR: Well, Paula, we've asked that question here over the last few hours as these pictures have begun to emerge from Baghdad. I have to tell you, at least one source is underscoring the same view that General Shepperd offered some time ago. It is a possible it is a fuel depot.

It is also possible -- you know, the Iraqis had dug a number of oil ditches and were threatening to set those on fire. That would coordinate with the dark smoke.

Now, the Iraqis may have had two reasons for doing that. They know that the smoke would make it difficult for the U.S. to use laser- guided weapons over Baghdad, the smoke throwing off the lasers, but also knowing that the U.S. can readily switch to satellite-guided weapons, which of course are not affected by smoke.

So there's another theory here at the Pentagon about these oil ditches, and that may be that it's part of an Iraqi propaganda effort to have these pictures shown.

At the moment, there is no confirmed report of daylight raids over Baghdad. However, we do know that some airplanes have been heard. We are just not certain whether there have been actual weapons drops.

ZAHN: And from the experts you're talking to there, they're not weighing one theory over the other, either Iraqis sabotaging their own oil, as you were calling it, oil ditches, or the alternative, which is a strike on a fuel depot by allied forces?

STARR: You know, at the end of the day, I suspect both things are going to be true. There are repeated reports of air-raid sirens, of explosions, of planes flying overhead.

And at this point, all we can really tell you is that, you know, officials here keep saying, "This is going to be a rolling campaign, no lull, no stop." We can tell you there is a continuing target set, and we know that there are planes in the air.

The picture you're seeing right now, whether it's a result of an immediate bomb drop or not, we simply do not know.

ZAHN: Finally, Barbara, you say this is part a rolling campaign, but wasn't it yesterday that we learned in a briefing that the first part of the Shock and Awe campaign was supposed to last about 24 hours, which would take us to 1:00 p.m. eastern time?

STARR: Well, officials here keep saying a rolling campaign. You know, these targets that certainly do go in some element of phases, it's difficult for them, they can't keep hundreds of planes over Iraq at the same time. It certainly is going to happen in phases.

But I can tell you there is a very lengthy target set. They are continuing to work their way through it. There are strikes going on around the country, as ground forces begin to get closer to Baghdad. And there's every reason to believe there may be a small lull, but it doesn't appear that they're going to stop the campaign.

General Franks saying earlier today he didn't even think if they knew what had happened to Saddam Hussein that it would change the outcome. They want regime change, and they're going to proceed with this campaign, they say, until they get it.

ZAHN: Yes, I thought that was one of the more interesting things he said. He said, even if Saddam Hussein is dead, we will continue with this campaign.

Barbara Starr, thanks so much. As soon as you have something more on what it is we're looking at in downtown Baghdad, we'll get back to you.

In the meantime, let's go back to Bill, who is standing by in Kuwait.


HEMMER: Paula, that waterway in southeastern Iraq, critical right now, we know that. Tommy Franks indicating earlier that, in the past few days, they found 139 floating sea mines aboard a barge, an Iraqi barge. They were seized and secured.

Out in the Persian Gulf now, CNN's Frank Buckley is embedded onboard the USS Constellation by way of videophone. Let's say good evening to Frank.

First time we've talk to you all day, Frank. What's happening now?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, we're inside the USS Constellation tonight because it is dark outside. You can't have a light on on the flight deck when you have personnel out there moving about on the flight deck. So we're inside one of the passageways here in the USS Constellation.

It was last night when we were able to -- were granted incredible access to some of the squadrons, as they were preparing for their first package, strike package going into Iraq. We, in fact, were able to witness the very first strike package that was about to go into Baghdad.

And then we were able to speak with some of the pilots immediately after they alighted from their aircraft, even before they were involved in their debriefings with the officials here on the ship.

Here's a look at what we were able to see last night.


BUCKLEY: The flight deck of the USS Constellation roared to life, with the first strike fighters bound for Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here, a package.

BUCKLEY: Earlier, a briefing. Embedded journalists getting a front-row seat to a moment in history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of you have already flown once or twice, but this is the package now that's going to be going downtown here. And it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here, gentlemen. I don't think any of us will ever step away from this and not remember this particular day. BUCKLEY: Ordnance from strike fighters and Tomahawk cruise missiles rained into Baghdad. Anti-aircraft fire flew up. The men who flew over it saw things they'll never forget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just continuous, constant explosions going off all over the place. We saw the AAA coming up. Occasionally you see some missile bursts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anything we could've thought of would've prepared us for what we were going to see happening on the ground out there.

BUCKLEY: The first strike package was led by a Desert Storm veteran, the carrier airwing's commanding officer Mark Fox (ph).

MARK FOX, COMMANDING OFFICER: We didn't fly on night-vision goggles back then, so everything that you saw then was with the naked eye, and now you've got an ability to see a lot more. So I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing or not, but there was a hell of a lot of stuff to look at.

BUCKLEY: Mike Herbert (ph) remembers watching missiles like this one crash into targets on TV during Desert Storm. He was only a teenager.

MIKE HERBERT: And to actually do that myself, for the first time, when I remember in high school seeing it on TV, being able to see that, now to actually do it, it's a whole different world.


BUCKLEY: And we are also told by Rear Admiral Barry Costello, who is the Constellation battle group commander, that all of the ships and submarines in this area, both in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, that were capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles in fact did launch. That was 30-plus ships and submarines, U.S. Navy warships, that launched Tomahawks into Iraq.


HEMMER: Frank Buckley, onboard the USS Constellation, reminding us yet again just how much firepower is going into the skies over the past 24 hours.

It is 7 o'clock local time. We're two hours away from that 24- hour deadline, Paula, in which the initial 24 hours of the Shock and Awe campaign were set to begin, going back to 9 o'clock of last evening.

Paula, back to you now in New York.

ZAHN: Yes, and it's interesting that Barbara Starr just added in her last live shot that it is her belief that this will very much be a rolling campaign, based on what she's heard at the Pentagon.

Thanks, Bill. Both in Washington and London, we had been warned that Operation Iraqi Freedom carries with it the loss of life. So far, on day three of the offensive, six Americans have died, 14 British troops. While military strategists may see this as limited casualties, it is catastrophic for the families losing loved ones.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has that story.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The flag at Camp Pendleton flies at half-staff. Three of the four U.S. coalition casualties in Iraq were from Camp Pendleton. They died along with another American and eight British soldiers, when their CH-46 transport helicopter crashed and burned near the Iraqi border, officials say, caused by mechanical failure.

The pilot was 30-year-old Captain Ryan Beaupre.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just -- we were scared that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... something like this would happen.

GUTIERREZ: He is mourned by family in his hometown of Bloomington, Illinois.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did always want to fly. He thought that he could do more as a person and said that he was going to join the Marine Corps.

GUTIERREZ: Also killed in the helicopter crash, 36-year-old Jay Aubin of Waterville, Maine, 25-year-old Corporal Brian Kennedy of Houston, Texas, and 29-year-old Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey of Maryland.

MICHAEL WATERS-BEY, FATHER OF KEVIN WATERS-BEY: George Bush, took a good look at this man, because you took my only son away from me.

GUTIERREZ: His father angrily blamed George W. Bush.

WATERS-BEY: When you lose your only son and child, and you don't really know what's really going on but what they tell you...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When anyone loses a member of their family, it's not something that's taken lightly. And we mourn the loss of these Marines.

GUTIERREZ: Before the end of the second day of the ground invasion, two more Marines were killed in action.

At this family diner in Fort Stewart, Georgia, military families, many with relatives serving in the Gulf, watched nervously as the war unfolds, hoping there will be no more casualties, but somehow knowing it will not be the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope they get back safe, do a good job. I know they've all been trained to do it. And just do your job and get back home safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it over with, and bring them home.

GUTIERREZ: Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Camp Pendleton, California.


ZAHN: As you can imagine, that angry father we saw in the last report has a lot to say. His name is Michael Waters-Bey whose song Kendall was killed in a helicopter crash yesterday in Kuwait.

His father is with us right now. He joins us from his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.

And, sir, I also understand you're joined by Kenneth Waters-Bey who is the son of this fallen Marine, and Sharita Waters-Bey who happens to be the sister.

Thank you all for being with us. We are so sorry about your loss.

Mr. Waters-Bey, I don't know whether you heard General Franks this morning, but he opened his first news conference saying that his heart went out to the families who have already made the ultimate sacrifice.

Does that bring you any comfort at all?


ZAHN: And what does that mean to you?

M. WATERS-BEY: It means a lot now that I see the respect that they give my son.

ZAHN: And it wasn't only General Franks who had those kinds of things to say. Secretary Rumsfeld expressed yesterday, quote, "that the world will be a safer place because of their dedicated service." Tell us a little bit this morning about your son's commitment and why he felt so strongly about serving this great nation of ours.

M. WATERS-BEY: Well, he was a real outgoing individual, and he liked to do things that was positive for his self. And this was one of the reasons why he joined the Marines.

ZAHN: How much did he talk to you about what he might face in this campaign?

M. WATERS-BEY: He didn't talk much about the campaign. He just talked to me about he had to pack up and about that he might be being deployed out. It was like back and forth. And then later on, he had called me back and told me that finally, they decided they was going to deploy his -- people there out where he was at.

ZAHN: Sharita, you must be so proud of your brother's service to this country. What do you want to say this morning?

SHARITA WATERS-BEY, SISTER OF FALLEN MARINE: I just want to say that I miss him so much, because he was an excellent person, and he always was there for me, somebody I could talk to. He was like one of my best friends and he always helped me out in school, and I miss him so much.

ZAHN: How much, Sharita, did you worry about him?

S. WATERS-BEY: From the first moment that he told me he was going over to Kuwait, I was really concerned because I knew that it was going to be a war, and I felt that this war was useless, that it was no point to it, so Ii really didn't want him to go.

ZAHN: But Mr. Waters-Bey, did you support his decision to go?

M. WATERS-BEY: Well, I did, because he didn't really have no other choice, by him being, you know, in the military and that he, you know, that was one of his orders to go, as being a staff sergeant in the Marines.

ZAHN: Kenneth, are you at all comfortable to talk with us this morning because -- I'm not sure, Mr. Waters-Bey, am I allowed to talk to Kenneth now?


ZAHN: OK, Kenneth, so many kind things have been said about the kind of person your dad was. What do you want people to know about your dad?

KENNETH WATERS-BEY, SON OF FALLEN MARINE: He was a really funny person. He always used to make me laugh, tell me jokes and everything. We used to go places together. And he was just a great person.

ZAHN: Mr. Waters-Bey, I know that you have expressed gratitude for what General Franks has said and Secretary Rumsfeld about these fallen comrades. But yesterday, at one point in this report we just showed, you held up a picture of your son and you said, "I want President Bush to get a good look at this, a really good look here. This is the only son I had, only son."

M. WATERS-BEY: Get a good look at this man because you took my only son away from me.

ZAHN: I know that you, once again, expressed some appreciation for what the military leaders had to say about the sacrifice your son made. Are you opposed to this war?

M. WATERS-BEY: In the sense, yes, I am.

ZAHN: And tell me why. M. WATERS-BEY: Because people are losing relatives, sons and daughters, cousins, uncles, you know. And the reason why I was like that yesterday was because it was a sensitive moment at that time for me.

ZAHN: And are you feeling any differently today?

M. WATERS-BEY: I'm still mourning, but I feel a little better as far as them giving my son, you know, condolences.

ZAHN: But once again, you did feel your son felt very strongly about living up to his obligations and serving in the military?

M. WATERS-BEY: Yes, I did. Yes, he was a great soldier to the United States government.

ZAHN: I know we've heard from families of those who have lost their own, that they very much hope that in these images that we see of war, that we don't lose sight of the human toll. Just a final thought to the American public about the service these men and women are doing, and what it is you want us all to keep in mind as this operation goes on.

M. WATERS-BEY: Well, I just like them to keep in mind that they are doing a job that they set out to do, and everybody has a job to do something, to complete something. And that's all I want to let America know, that he was doing his job for the United States government.

ZAHN: Well, we certainly salute his commitment here. Michael Waters-Bey, Kenneth Waters-Bey and Sharita Waters-Bey, thank you for joining us at this difficult time. Our thoughts are with you as you go through this terrible, terrible process of mourning. Good luck.

M. WATERS-BEY: Thank you.

S. WATERS-BEY: Thank you.

K. WATERS-BEY: Thank you.

ZAHN: And now, I'm going to head back to CNN Center where Leon Harris is standing by. I know, Leon, you have also spoken with family members who have lost loved ones. It is not easy to hear their pain, is it?

HARRIS: It's awfully difficult. It really is. But at least the -- we hope at least that their coming out and being able to share their grief with the rest of the nation and pretty much everyone in the nation is behind them. It's got to make them feel somewhat better. I mean I hope that does help families like that get through these tough, tough times.

All right, folks, here's what we know that at this hour right now. Thick, black smoke is billowing over Baghdad this hour. Just a short time ago, witnesses reported more explosions in the Iraqi capital. Less than 24 hours ago, the bombs and missiles starting raining down on the city, the beginning of what the military calls the Shock and Awe Campaign.

Now, we've also learned within the last few minutes that four U.S. soldiers were killed in fighting in Central Iraq. The report comes to us from a reporter with Britain's Sky News who was traveling with that military unit. He says rocket-propelled grenades hit the humvees that the soldiers were in.

The U.S. commander of the war in Iraq says between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqi troops have surrendered and are now in custody, and thousands more have just laid down their weapons and gone home. General Tommy Franks also says U.S. and coalition forces are fighting on their own terms with precision attacks designed to avoid civilian casualties. This was his first briefing since the war began.

U.S. Marines are going to house-to-house securing the key port city of Umm Qasr. Allied forces took control of that area yesterday but they were still battling pockets of resistance today. Umm Qasr's very important because it is the main port for the U.N. Oil For Food Program.

President Bush consults his war council and tracks developments in Iraq from his post at Camp David. In his weekly radio address today, the president said using decisive force is the only way to limit the duration of the war.

We have some good news to report from the CNN family here. Some of our staffers who were expelled from Baghdad arrived safely in Jordan today. The crew had been the last staff members of any U.S. television network in the Iraqi capital, and they left behind a number of freelance journalists, who are still there in the capital. CNN's included correspondents, Nic Robertson and Rym Brahimi, were ordered out yesterday and they are now on their way home, and we're glad to hear that.

More anti-war protests are planned in cities across the U.S. today, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Yesterday, demonstrators there and elsewhere rallied against the war in Iraq and in some cases, the rallies in support of the troops were held nearby.

And in Gaza, thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate in support of the Iraqi people, but some in the crowd were also chanting support for Saddam Hussein.

We'll keep on top of all the news that's happening right now, but that's all that we know right now at this hour. Let's go to Bill Hemmer standing by right now in Kuwait City.

Hello, Bill.

HEMMER: Hey, Leon, hello again. Its' just a bit past 7:00 local time here in the Persian Gulf. You mentioned it. Let's go back to that live picture over downtown Baghdad. Eyewitnesses describe and quite clearly you can see a dark, cloudy day on the outskirts of Baghdad, some sort of dark smoke drifting on the horizon. Not clear what this is. Talking with a member of the Red Cross in the past hour, he described at least two or three explosions about 45 minutes ago. What they were, we cannot verify on their own. Also, some reports that Iraqis on the outside of Baghdad, perhaps dug some ditches, filled them up with oil, then set them on fire. No way, again, for us to independently verify whether or not that is the case.

From last night, we want to show you pictures obtained by our CNN crew before they were expelled from Iraq. Nic Robertson, Rym Brahimi and others took these pictures of the massive bombardment of the Iraqi capital. It looks almost as if these tomahawk cruise missiles were launched in perfect synchronicity, a perfect succession to hit and explode at the same time last evening. And today, we can see the aftermath and daylight of Baghdad. We are told that the Republican guard palace sitting on the Tigris River, heavily damaged. Some Iraqis say it is now in ruins. Also, government buildings were targeted, we know of, and also, military installations as well in the Iraqi capital.

From Baghdad now to Basra, the southeastern part of the country, the second most populated town, about 400,000 people, Tommy Franks, head of CENTCOM earlier today in his briefing said that they're right now considering the possibility of taking this town in a very peaceful way, indicating that not large formations of the Iraqi military have not been spotted, possibly an indication that the Iraqis will negotiate a surrender, but that is something we are all waiting to see right now. We had a CNN crew just outside that town earlier. CNN's Martin Savidge coming under fire from a rocket-propelled grenade at one point and U.S. Marines working through a number of old tanks and blowing them up along the way.

We're going to get to Marty's report in a moment. It is dramatic that he filed with us today here at CNN.

In the meantime, though, before we check in with Marty, Gary Strieker is in the Persian Gulf on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a carrier that we do know, did take place in terms of tomahawk cruise missile launches in the past 24 hours. Gary is embedded there. The first time we've heard from him.

Gary, good evening. What do you have for us?

GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Bill. Some of those explosions that you're seeing around Iraq could actually be the explosions from air attacks that were launched from aircraft carriers here in the Mediterranean. There are two aircraft carriers, the Harry S. Truman and the Theodore Roosevelt. Here on the Roosevelt, the first air attacks against Iraq were launched earlier today and all aircraft that left on the attack came back and reported a successful strike.

There were two major targets they had in their mission. One of them was a complex of palaces of -- Saddam Hussein's palaces west of Baghdad. A complex called the al Ramadi palace. There were two palaces in the complex. The pilots at a post-strike briefing, we talked to, reported that both of those palaces were hit and destroyed. There was also an a.m. broadcast station, which was hit and destroyed. And the pilots are preparing on this carrier for more strikes today. There will be strikes also leaving from the Harry S. Truman. This carrier is on nighttime duty. That means that air strikes are being carried out from the Mediterranean on a 24-hour basis -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, Gary, when you talk about the damage and the destruction there, the military likes to call it BDA, Battle Damage Assessment. How do they go about that on board the Theodore Roosevelt when it comes to assessing what was done on the ground in Baghdad?

STRIEKER: Well, the pilots on board do have some equipment, which allows them to assess damage on a preliminary basis, but I think they're waiting for other satellite and overflight assessments to make sure that the damage they reported is as complete as they say it is.

One of the things they did mention, the two pilots we talked to when they came back, they were very surprised considering the set of targets they had, that there was no resistance whatsoever. There were -- there was no anti-aircraft fire, there was nothing coming from the ground. There were no aircraft attacking them. That surprised them, considering the targets.

And also, we asked them about the possibility of civilian losses, did they see that these bombs that they dropped, which were JDAMs, GPS-targeted bombs, by the way -- we asked them whether they possibly may have hit any surrounding areas. And one of the pilots said, "Well, this is one of the good things about hitting a presidential palace, because," in his words, "Saddam Hussein does not like neighbors," so most of the palaces in Baghdad are surrounded by huge areas of open space. So the possibility of collateral damage is very, very slim -- Bill.

HEMMER: Gary, on a professional note, this is the first time you and I have had a chance to talk. What are your rules of broadcast? What are your rules of information in terms of what you can relate to us? And when are you essentially in a blackout and when you cannot talk with us?

STRIEKER: Well, we're able to watch the strikes being launched, to film the flights being launched on these air attacks, and we can wait for them to come back and we have to sit tight during the course of the attacks during a blackout period before we can report that these strikes have occurred, because, of course if we would report the time of departure of the aircraft, if there was any indication on the part of the Iraqis, that there were certain targets to be hit, the Iraqis would be able to take defensive measures and offensive measures against the strike aircraft entering the country.

So we are essentially in a blackout phase until those aircraft return. However, yesterday, we were allowed a little bit of extra leverage and reporting and we actually did report before the planes returned to the aircraft. Once they've left the country and are over blue water, when they get their feet wet, as they say here on the ship, we're free to report that the strikes have occurred, Bill. HEMMER: Gary, thanks. Gary Strieker onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf.

We heard from Tommy Franks again about two hours ago and we've also heard from our embedded reporters just about 24 hours a day around the clock. We want to talk with Colonel Mike Turner from the U.S. Air Force, retired, a Gulf War veteran who back in 1990 and 1991 was in Saudi Arabia, now living in Colorado Springs and joins us live here on CNN.

I know you were responsible, in large part, for briefing General Shwarzkopf throughout that entire conflict. Curious to know, from your military perspective, what do you make of the embed program? What do you make of the images and the stories we're getting long before even the Pentagon or even Central Command gets word of what's happening on the battlefield?

COL. MIKE TURNER, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): Well, Bill, I was watching these last night. They're astounding. It's astounding reporting, incredible courage by the reporters. I have the utmost respect for them. You know, we tried very hard in Desert Storm to try and find a way to provide access to the media and not compromise operational -- the operational environment. And I know it was very controversial, the press pool system. We truly tried to do the best we could. And I remember being struck by the fact that while the information was limited, it was accurate. And I was also struck by how similar that was to General Franks' comments this morning that what you'll hear and see is the absolute truth. But the embed program, I think, is just superb.

Now, we need to understand that we haven't seen -- the images could get pretty horrific if this operation turns south at any point and we need to be prepared for that. But I think it's an enormous breakthrough. I applaud Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks and the military commanders in the field and the units and all of the reporters. I think the media's done just a superb job and I think we've actually found a very, very sound solution here.

HEMMER: Colonel, I think you make a great point, though. If the images turn nasty, if we move toward Baghdad and the fighting gets very tough and rough going, will there come a point where the Pentagon will reject us or there may come a point, perhaps, when they look back and say, you know we should have second guessed this operation?

TURNER: You know, I don't know. I think the military's genuine desire is to provide an accurate and truthful picture. I think in that, that we, in the media, have a common ground. The overarching, imperative, of course, for the military planners is that they protect lives and accomplish the mission simultaneously, and the media obviously has to take a back seat to that.

It's difficult to say, because this is all new ground. This is so untried before. It's real time reporting. But the impression I get, the body language of the troops on camera and of the reporters is that they're all functioning as an effective, combined arms team and information team. And so far, I think it's been extraordinarily successful and beneficial to everyone concerned. And just like the rolling campaign, we're going to have to take it a day at a time and play it by ear. But so far, I'd say it's a real breakthrough.

HEMMER: Colonel, just a little time left here with you.


HEMMER: Tommy Franks came out for the first time in almost 72 hours. I know the personalities of Tommy Franks and Norman Shwarzkopf are very different. Can you tell us, No. 1, do you think it's a good idea to stay underground for three and a half days, essentially, in Qatar? And what are the characteristics that you would point to that truly define the personalities of Tommy Franks versus General Shwarzkopf?

TURNER: I don't know General Franks at all other than from what I've seen on camera. I will tell you, though this may seem counter- intuitive to a lot of viewers, that they both strike me as superb public speakers, as superb public representatives of the military effort. The public also needs to be aware of the fact that both General Shwarzkopf and I'm sure General Franks are driven primarily by the activities in the field and they won't come to the camera unless they have an ebb in the action. Their principal concern is the operation.

HEMMER: Colonel Mike Turner with us live in Colorado Springs. Thank you for your time, reflecting back in 1990 and 1991. That's it from Kuwait City and back to New York and more with Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill. I know you focused on this a little bit earlier this morning and that is what Martin Savidge endured with the 1st Battalion 7th Marine. We're going to take a short break and when we come back he's going to tell us what happened to him as he was embedded with these troops and the men and women came under fire from a rocket-propelled grenade. That report straight out of the break.


ZAHN: Back to Baghdad now where there are signs of yet another explosion. Eyewitnesses on the ground telling us they had heard five so far, those starting at dusk. It is not clear exactly what is going on here. From the Pentagon, we've been told there are a couple different theories because nothing has been confirmed so far. One idea is that much earlier today, in our 7:00 hour that maybe a fuel depot was targeted. And there is another possibility. The Iraqis have dug some oil ditches. And if they have done that and set them on fire, their goal would be to obscure laser-guided weapons.

Now, the satellite-guided weapons wouldn't be threatened by this at all or affected by it, but the laser-guided weapons would be. We really don't know what we're looking at here, although we have seen a cloud of billowing black smoke. We've been watching it for the better part of four hours now.

We have talked with a person from the Red Cross, a representative from the Red Cross, who also confirmed he heard the same explosions. We're going to keep an eye on this as we get a better context. I don't if we have Barbara Starr up yet at the Pentagon to see if we can get any confirmation of this latest report of explosions. We do know that air raid sirens have not been sounded, according to the witnesses who witnessed these first blasts. Although they did hear sirens of ambulances and police cars cruising through the city. That account reported to us about 45 minutes ago.

But this latest report comes just moments ago of another explosion being heard in downtown Baghdad. Now, just to give you perspective on this, what is being called a rolling campaign, the first 24 hours of Shock and Awe, some 2,000 sorties are expecting to be flown in the first 24 hours, 1,500 cruise missiles or bombs being dropped. Now I think we see tracer fire, anti-aircraft fire. Can't really make it out from this picture. That appears to be, I believe, tracer fire. We have General Don Shepperd who's going to join us from CNN center, who can much better recognize this than we can.

Once again just to give you an idea of the barrage that we saw yesterday at about 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, a seven-minute barrage, very specific targets, we are told by General Franks hit. There are additional targets, he said, that must be considered. He called the first day of the Shock and Awe Campaign as going exceptionally well.

General Franks saying the targeting that we had seen was precise, all involving precise munitions. He said no targets were selected that weren't entirely appropriate and by that, he meant that these are targets that were chosen to avoid non-combatants. We keep and eye on this. We see pretty much what we saw yesterday at 1:00 p.m.

General Shepperd, what do you think we're looking at, sir?

MAJOR GENERAL DON SHEPPERD (RET), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, I think that we're looking at a beginning of a second day or second night of bombing in downtown Baghdad, restriking targets that the daytime assessment said were not successfully struck and then additional targets in the same area. I think this is just more of the pressure on the Iraqi leadership to say this is going to continue until you surrender or the regime is changed.

ZAHN: And what are you seeing visually? Was that tracer?

SHEPPERD: Yes, that was tracer fire there. Now, what we've seen up until now is basically -- before the aircraft and bombs begin to impact, we see tracer five starting. Now, there's lots -- it doesn't mean that their radar is up detecting stealth aircraft or anything of that sort. It means they've got some type of warning. The warning can come in many ways. People can see the cruise missiles launch from the ship, the tomahawk missiles launch from the ship in the Persian Gulf and do simple mathematics, distance equals rate times time and assume when they can get there. When they see jamming starting to appear on their scopes, they know something is about to happen or suspect something is about to happen. And then, of course, they can also hear tomahawk missiles and they can hear aircraft as well. So this is the part...

ZAHN: Tell us what follows the tracer fire, General. In the past, what we saw at about 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time yesterday was anti- aircraft fire coming from a number of different quadrants of the city, right?

SHEPPERD: Yes. What it tells me is they have a still -- their anti-aircraft or their air defense system is still very sophisticated. They do sector fire. They control it. They start together. They stop together. They cover the right sectors of the sky at the same time hoping that aircraft will flow into that and they also fire missiles. The missiles don't seem to be guided, as I've watched them launch. But it's still a robust air defense system that's with command and control over it.

ZAHN: Is it sophisticated enough to know exactly what it's hitting, or they just fire a bunch of it and hope they strike something?

SHEPPERD: That's exactly what they do, Paula. They are -- they cannot see on their radars, and then, many of the guns that they're shooting are not radar-guided at all. They're simply firing into a sector of the sky, hoping that they spear something, the golden Beebe, if you will. And then, of course, at the end of the time of flight, you see flashes in the sky. That's when the shells self-destruct so they don't fall down on the homeland territory of those that are firing them and that flak can also hit things. But the idea is to hit it with the bullet and the destruction of the shells is peripheral.

ZAHN: General Shepperd, stay here with us. I'm just going to quickly recap for our viewers what we are watching. We had heard four hours ago that there might have been the beginning of daytime or right at dusk, a strike of a fuel depot. What we're seeing now is what the General describes as tracer fire followed by anti-aircraft fire.

General Shepperd, for those of us folks who were watching yesterday at this time, this looks pretty similar, in advance of that seven-minute barrage.

SHEPPERD: Yes, let me give you a couple of notes on this. Tracer fire is anti-aircraft fire. Now, the lower level, when you see them low to the ground like that, it's generally the lower caliber weapons. When you see them going up higher in the sky are very -- tracers that last a long time. That's high caliber weapons that reach up to high altitudes. This is probably a combination of 37, 57, 85 and 100 millimeter anti-aircraft fire. These are Soviet guns that have existed since the Vietnam War and still exist. They're very lethal.

ZAHN: And what do you think they have more of, this lower caliber weapon or higher caliber weapon?

SHEPPERD: Well, always, you have more of the lower caliber weapon. But the lower caliber weapons hits things at low altitude. The aircraft and the weapons attacking may or may not be at low altitude.

ZAHN: And we are watching this as we hear the call to evening prayer going on. General Shepperd, I think a lot of people would like to know what it is that is left in downtown Baghdad to hit. The Iraqis claiming 19 different targets were hit yesterday, the Pentagon saying more than that. What is left to hit here?

SHEPPERD: A lot is left to hit in this area on the west bank of the Tigris. Let me give you a little tutorial, if you will, on that west bank. If you think of Washington, D.C., think of standing at the Pentagon and looking toward the capitol, past the Lincoln Monument, up the mall to the capitol, across to the Supreme Court, that's about the length of this area, and then think of looking left toward Georgetown. That's about the area that you're looking at, about a 2.5 square mile area and there's lots left to hit in there, a lot of it perhaps underground. So I suspect we'll be restriking some of the targets and hitting new ones as well, Paula.

ZAHN: The air defenses are located we are told, inside some highly populated areas. How -- what kind of a challenge is that to work around?

SHEPPERD: It's a big challenge. Now, your fixed missile sites are going to be located probably in peripheral areas not in the real populated areas, just because they're so big and complicated. The anti-aircraft guns themselves will be put on top of apartment buildings and that type of thing. Those going after the anti-aircraft will have to be very, very careful not to cause civilian casualties and there are plans to deal with that type of thing in order. What you want to do first is you want to put out the radar eyes, and you want to put out the fixed missile sites. Then, you go against the mobile missile sites. Later, you take care of the anti-aircraft. You may or may not do it from the air. You may do it from the ground.

ZAHN: All right. Joining us now, Colonel Mike Turner to add to what we're seeing on the screen.

Colonel Turner, what are you looking at?

TURNER: Yes, Paula. Well, just to add to General Shepperd's comments, my backseater in F-4s transitioned in F-111s and flew over Baghdad during Desert Storm. His reports from the cockpit on one of these raids were pretty amazing. The anti-aircraft shells explode and when they get thick enough, if you happen to fly through them in a certain way, you can actually smell the cordite, the gunpowder from the puffs of these explosions coming through the air conditioning system of the aircraft. It's a pretty intense time. And even though it's barrage fire and unguided fire, as General Shepperd said, the golden Beebe, as we used to call it, can still do some pretty serious damage.

ZAHN: And how threatening is that for pilots?

TURNER: Well, obviously, it's very threatening. The severe threat is radar-guided munitions, whether it's AAA or surface-to-air missiles. And at this point in the air campaign, I have to believe that we've shut down most of those systems. So this is unguided barrage fire. It tends not to be very accurate, and it does -- the threshold has been reduced dramatically of the threat to the aircrews as they come by.

ZAHN: To the folks who are just joining us, we are looking at what General Shepperd believes to be another round of nighttime bombing here in Baghdad.

General Shepperd, we have been, since 7:00, pretty much tracking a large black billowing cloud coming from a part of downtown Baghdad and we never could get it confirmed from the Pentagon what that was. Some witness saying there was a daytime strike. You said it's a possibility of a fuel depot hit, but also, there's a possibility that the Iraqis dug oil ditches to create a cloud of smoke to obscure laser-guided weapons.

SHEPPERD: It could be that -- it could be that these are some of the trench fires we've been talking about although it appears to me that it's a single plume coming up. That's what led me to believe that perhaps we struck a fuel depot for the Republican Guard forces. I just don't know. We're going to have to watch. Setting trenches on fire does -- it does affect laser-guided weapons. It does not affect satellite-guided weapons.

I wanted to make another point on the AAA fire if I could. Those of us who have been at this a long time, we've had a lot of experience with AAA. Not only can you actually smell the cordite passing close to your airplane, but you can also hear and feel the rounds. It sounds like a bump on the side of your airplane. It's a sonic wave. If they pass close to your airplane, you can hear this thump, thump, thump, thump passing and you can also smell the cordite. This stuff is very dangerous and very thick, but the point I want to make is, this is disciplined anti-aircraft fire. These guys know what they're doing. They're firing in sectors where they have suspected aircraft may be and may fly through it, so it's highly dangerous.

ZAHN: We watch this as we hear the evening prayer being called. General Shepperd, the other thing I wanted to ask you about, you talk about how sophisticated the Iraqi air defenses are, and yet you say they're basically blanketing the whole sky and firing somewhat indiscriminately. What does it mean that we have seen this AAA fire always in advance of an attack? Do they know it's coming or are they just acting protectively here?

SHEPPERD: A little bit of both and this is not indiscriminate firing at all. They are telling them where -- the command and control of this, the commanders of the air defense units, are telling them what sectors to aim at. So if you've got several guns, you will tell them to cover various portions of the sky. You will tell them when to fire and it's based on a good guess. Somebody will hear something or it will be followed-up fire in this sector. They turn the fire on in that sector and then they turn it off to save ammunition and cool the barrels, then they reload. So this is, again, well disciplined from a sophisticated air defense system that's still very dangerous and has to be degraded over time.

ZAHN: I guess by indiscriminate, I meant they really don't know exactly what they're firing at, but they have it very carefully calibrated so they hit all quadrants of the sky? SHEPPERD: That's basically true. Now, when you say all quadrants, they probably know what sectors to expect that it's coming from based up on the inputs they're getting from telephone calls and reports on the ground. And they will turn on sectors. They don't necessarily blanket the entire sky, but they fire where their best guess is that weapons or aircraft are coming from in from.

ZAHN: What is the possibility they know exactly what is coming their way?

SHEPPERD: I don't think they do, but they -- by just knowledge of military weapons, they know that it's tomahawk missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft dropping bombs. Any air defender knows that.

ZAHN: Colonel Turner, we're bringing you back into the discussion here. We have had eyewitnesses saying they heard five loud explosions within the last hour and then a more recent report over the last five minutes of another loud blast. We see no evidence in the sky of that, do we?

TURNER: No, but, you know, that's -- we're dealing with an awful small sliver of information at this point and so, we have to take educated guesses. The way this has developed, this rolling campaign if you will, it's a target list developed by planners months in advance and they work down a target list and they're constantly assessing how -- what the effects have been of the previous raids and what the battle damage assessment is on the previous targets and they continue to work down that target list. And so it's difficult to tell where they are in the target list and what specifically they've struck. And of course, there is always the possibility that, in fact, it didn't come from the air, that it's some sort of operation on the ground by Iraqis and it's just an awful small sliver of information at this point to work with.

ZAHN: Let's talk specifically, gentlemen, about the targets that might be included. General Shepperd, you were talking about this earlier today, Republican Guard trenches, additional palaces, Ba'ath Party headquarters. What else?

SHEPPERD: Well, right now, you're going to finish up on what you consider to be the command and control and bunker targets, the ability to take out the eyes and communications of the leadership. Now, as we progress further into this campaign, what you're going to see is campaigns against deployed Republican Guard forces. These forces are probably well integrated in populated areas right now. If they intend to oppose coalition forces that are coming toward Baghdad, they are going to have to assemble, and when they assemble, they're going to become targets. So you will watch that very carefully through all of your intelligence means and then you'll strike it when appropriate and take collateral damage into consideration, Paula.

ZAHN: Is there any doubt in your mind that we're about to witness another large barrage over Baghdad?

SHEPPERD: My guess that is that we are. I'm guessing, like everyone else, but it would make sense to do so. ZAHN: Help us better understand the breadth of resources that are acquired for the coalition forces to pull this off. I had heard earlier today, over 30 different bases are being used.

SHEPPERD: Yes, this is an amazing thing to realize. Remember the last display that we witnessed yesterday was a seven-minute barrage if you will. This seven-minute barrage was assembled from really 38 locations including 30 various air bases, most in the region, Diego Garcia, the United Kingdom and Whiteman Air Force Base as well as all of the bases in the region, and five aircraft carrier battle groups between the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and then destroyers, cruisers and submarines.

Now, all of this has to be orchestrated and timed so that it will arrive in accordance with the war plan. Last -- the last strike, it was within about seven minutes. I have no idea if it comes -- what it will be this time. But orchestrating all this, doing it between forces from different nations, making sure that the jamming is there on time, making sure that everything is coordinated, the air routes in are diplomatically OK, the air routes in are coordinated and deconflicted so that people don't run into each other, the air-to-air resources that are there to protect the strike forces don't shoot down our own airplanes; they're able to sort enemy aircraft from friendly aircraft. This is all absolutely unbelievable and it comes from years of training from very, very good equipment and it's very, very difficult and very, very dangerous and we will, at some point, lose some of the people doing this, Paula.

ZAHN: We're going to stick with this picture, General Shepperd, and bring folks up to date. A giant plume of smoke rising into the night sky in downtown Baghdad at exactly 11:22 Eastern Time. That would be 7:22 local time in Iraq. Following the latest reported explosions and a flurry of anti-aircraft tracer fire. Ambulances, we are told, have rushed to the scene of the blast. That pretty much mirrors what's we have heard from a number of eyewitnesses over the last 20 minutes or so. Anything you want to add, General Shepperd, to what we might expect.

SHEPPERD: Well, a couple of other things to look at -- you see the lights are still on in downtown Baghdad. That indicates to me that we're not destroying infrastructure. We have the ability to turn out the lights in the entire city for hours, days, weeks, months, and years. We have the ability to turn it out in sections of the city. And it appears that, at least so far, we have not done any of that. I think we will steer away from any infrastructure destruction as long as we can. If it becomes necessary to secure the objective in the end, the forces will be careful. We will take a look at the weapons. We will take a look at what's nearby. We'll do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties because it only causes everyone problems. And I suspect that -- I suspect that there will be some civilian casualties no matter what we do, but we will try very hard not to do it.

ZAHN: General Shepperd, stand by. I want to bring Bill Hemmer into our conversation, who, in Kuwait City, has endured a number of sirens going off. The all-clear sign called a while ago -- Bill. HEMMER: Yes, Paula, I thought our reporters, two of them have made very good points over the past couple of hours. And I wonder if General Shepperd and also Colonel Turner can jump in on this. Nic Robertson described to us this morning when dawn broke in Baghdad, about 5:30 local time, there were explosions, there were some sort of bombs delivered in the Iraqi capitol, but that the air raid sirens were never signaled that time. He said that was an exception to the rule. Anytime Iraqi air space, Baghdad air space had been invaded by coalition aircraft for tomahawk cruise missiles, the sirens always went off, but not that time. He said that's the first time he's ever noticed it.

The other thing, Gary Strieker onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt talking with these pilots who turned back to -- come back to that aircraft carrier say the Iraqi defenses, the air defenses on the ground, are not nearly as strong as, perhaps, they were a day ago or a week ago or even going back to the Persian Gulf War. I think the logic is pretty obvious here, but I don't know from the military standpoint what the answer is.

Is it, Don, that -- is it the fact that the command and control structure is now fractured, or is it that the defenses right now are much weaker than they have been in the past? Your assessment would be what?

SHEPPERD: Well, Bill, my conclusion on that is that sometimes, the reason the sirens weren't turned on is sometimes you miss -- you miss a guess on that and so they probably missed a guess. Most of the time, they hear -- they get some warning that something is coming and they may just hear the first explosion and then turn them on, so I don't know what to make of that. I do assess that over time; you will degrade the air defense system.

As Colonel Turner said, we have likely already grossly degraded the radar system and the radar-guided surface-to-air missiles, but the AAA will be there, the anti-aircraft artillery will be there for a long time. They're certainly not going to run out of ammunition any time soon. So it'll be degraded, but it'll be dangerous for a long time. And the mobile missiles will be there for a long time and the shoulder-fired missiles will be there for a long time. So it will be dangerous for aircraft to operate in the Baghdad vicinity for quite a while in the future, Bill.

HEMMER: If there's a breakdown in communication, though, would that help explain it? Is that a possibility, anyway?

SHEPPERD: Sure. I can't draw any conclusions on that, but that's definitely a possibility. But it appears to me, that everything I've watched, is that the air defense network, command and control, is still intact and are still able to talk to their forces.

HEMMER: All right. Thank you, General. Paula, back to you now in New York.

ZAHN: Actually, I wanted to ask the General one more question, Bill, that you raised, which was a good one. And General, you basically said it will be a long time before the Iraqis run out of this AAA fire. How long could they sustain it?

SHEPPERD: Well, the fire is heavy, but my suspicion is they've got a lot of ammunition stored. They've been able to plan this for a long time, several years, as a matter of fact. My guess is that they've got ammunition to sustain their campaign for a long time. So again, the AAA, the anti-aircraft fire from guns on the ground will probably be a danger all the way to the end. Shoulder-fired missiles and mobile missiles, which can be hidden in buildings, can be brought out at a moment's notice just as we saw in the Serbia campaign. So we've got many miles to go and Baghdad is going to be a difficult target if we have to go in there and fight.

ZAHN: All right, General Shepherd, we're going to have you stay with us. We're going to quickly check in with Zainab Al-Suwaij who has family still in Iraq.

And I want you, as we watch this play out on television, to tell us when is last time you had contact with your family members in Iraq and what they've told you?

ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ, AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS: I spoke with my family a couple of days ago and they are in Baghdad. They are doing fine. And other family members, they are in other parts, other states Iraq. They said they are doing fine. In Baghdad, they said this time, the fire is different than 1991. The civilian's areas are pretty much secured and it's not really -- there is not a lot of bombing going on in civilian's areas. Mainly, they are targeting the government buildings. And they are -- people there are very happy and very optimistic that they'll get rid of Saddam soon. And they said -- they ask us -- they asked me, "When are you coming. We're waiting for you to come for you and we're waiting to be liberated."

ZAHN: I understand you were kind of surprised about how open your family members were in phone conversations recently, as opposed to a while ago, knowing that those phone calls are always monitored.

AL-SUWAIJ: That's right. This is the first time actually I noted that they are talking openly. Usually, people -- when we used to call to talk to people there, they always toke talk in codes. But now, I think they think Saddam Hussein's regime's end coming soon and they are very happy and optimistic.

ZAHN: And you say there it's pretty clear to them that military targets are what are being considered right now. How has this affected their daily lives? Are they honoring the curfew?

AL-SUWAIJ: Well, there is a curfew around the city and people are not allowed to leave Baghdad, and so most of them are staying home. And also, there is not a lot of walking or doing any other activities during the day. They are basically in their homes and staying inside and just to be safe. And the government officials really don't allow anybody to be out.

ZAHN: Zainab, we're seeing a lull in the anti-aircraft fire we have been watching for many moments now. We're going to keep an eye on that picture as we have heard confirmed reports of another explosion, I guess, about 17 minutes ago in downtown Baghdad. Now, that is on the heels of reports of another explosion at dusk. We will keep you posted, but clearly, General Shepperd is describing that the Iraqis expect another fierce barrage of coalition fire.

Zainab, can you tell us what your family members have said about any of the strikes they've witnessed so far either the first night, second or third?

AL-SUWAIJ: Well, they didn't -- they said they heard about the bombs and -- but they haven't seen anything yet. This is about two days ago. And so far, they are doing well, and I ask if anybody get hurt or have you heard of anybody who has been injured or anything. They said no, not yet. And they've been talking on the phone. The phone system still working, functioning. This is very different than the first Gulf War. And even the electricity, it's still functioning. And so it's different this time and they said they are contacting friends and family all around and they are doing well, just fine.

ZAHN: I know you've said they didn't see much of the explosions, but it simply has to be terrifying for them to hear what they've heard. What have they told you?

AL-SUWAIJ: Sure. It's very frightening to hear about -- even the sounds of the explosion, as I remember in 1991. I was there in the Gulf War. And it was, it was pretty hard and difficult to live through the war and -- but I'm afraid that was the only option we have now and we had before. So I hope everybody will be fine and not more civilian people get really hurt by this attack.

ZAHN: And Zainab, I want to come back to you and talk about the liberation your family members expect, but I want to see if I have General Shepperd back from the CNN center, as we keep an eye on this picture.

General Shepperd, there seems to be a lull in the anti-aircraft fire we were witnessing this before. What do you make of that?

SHEPPERD: Again, I make of it that they don't have any intelligence that anything is incoming, no reports that anything is incoming. It seems pretty quiet there right now, Paula. They're probably on alert, expecting some, though.

ZAHN: All right. You stay with us, please, sir. We'll go back to Zainab now to follow up on a point you were making about your relatives. They were asking when are they coming to free us. I know General Franks today in his news conference talked about we're not coming to Iraq to occupy it; we're coming to liberate it. How widely held of a view do you think that really is in Iraq right now?

AL-SUWAIJ: I think the majority of the people know that America and its allies coming to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime and they are not coming to occupy the country, and they are aware of this. They said they are -- family and friends, they say they are not afraid of Americans or the allies coming to Iraq as much as they are afraid of Saddam Hussein's government, so they are waiting for the minute to be free and be liberated. ZAHN: Well, Zainab, we really appreciate you joining us today to give us a sense of how people in Baghdad are reacting to this campaign.

Back to General Shepperd right now.

General Shepperd, there were some really interesting things hat came out of the news conference of CENTCOM today out of Qatar. And I thought it was worth mentioning that General Franks used the word "agile" -- am I hearing the sirens going off there? No, I'm not making that out there -- but mentioned the word "agility" and "flexibility" a number of times. How important is that to this campaign?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's extremely important, Paula. We've seen a couple of really good examples of that so far. One of them is that the air campaign was supposed to kick off first, instead the ground campaign kicked off first, followed by the air campaign. Second, the hit on the emerging target, the leadership decapitation target in, by the way, a populated area of downtown Baghdad was an example of being able to put things together very, very quickly.

And then, a couple of other examples, the strikes on the tugboat, the mine-laden tugboat, the Navy, the taking of the port of Umm Qasr by British commandos working with Navy SEALS and United States commandoes supported by air, and reportedly, from some sources, AC-130 gunships, all of that being orchestrated is flexibility at its best.

ZAHN: General Shepperd, we're going to bring Bill over to the conversation now from Kuwait City -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, Paula, listen, just watching the images from last night. Don, stick with me for a moment here. I thought one of the more indelible sites was that huge plume of smoke that went straight up in the air. It looked like it went upwards of 100 stories in the air. Our military experts on this side of the ocean tell us that that could have been -- and I don't mean to undermine the size of this missile -- about a 2,000 pound tomahawk missile could have created that. It was my impression that you need something much larger to get that image, to get that plume of smoke to go so high. Is it possible, though, that it was only -- and I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek -- only a 2,000 pound bomb?

SHEPPERD: It is, Bill. There's a couple things that affect that. All the reports we have from the military are that nothing larger than a 2,000-pound bomb was used yet and that would be logical because if you use a 5,000-pound bomb, basically, nonstealthy airplanes would have to carry that 5,000-pound bomb. And I don't think you're going to use nostealthy airplanes over Baghdad right now. You're going to use cruise missiles or stealthy aircraft. So I believe it's a 2,000-pound bomb, and what affects that type of thing is what it hits and how deep the fusing goes. So you can get all sorts of plumes of various sizes and you can't draw any real conclusions about the size of the weapon just by looking at the explosion or the plume. HEMMER: Don, thanks. Paula, listen, I've been on the air here for about the past nine hours. I'm going to step out very soon, in a matter of minutes, actually. And I guess you and I will do it all over again tomorrow, on Sunday, so I'll see you then. In the meantime, Wolf is going to step in here in about 12 minutes. In fact, he's coming into the room right now. Before I go, though, Paula, we have seen an extraordinary day on behalf of another one of our embedded teams. Marty Savidge and Scott McWhinny (ph) working with the Marines now.

Earlier today, we saw them in these live reports that were just downright fascinating, to be quite honest with you. We saw them live, moving through this village on the outskirts of Basra. For the sake of our viewers, we want to play portions of what Marty filed for us earlier today. Have a look and a listen about what they found in this village again on the outskirts of the southeastern city of Basra.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 1st Battalion 7th Marines on move once more. We're riding with them. This is our vehicle in conjunction with the convoy, heading west now, leaving Basra behind us and the main oil field objective that they captured yesterday.

But speaking of oil, take a look out the window here as we travel along, there is a brilliant orange plume. It seems to be a key indicator of an oil well that was set alight. There are said to be about nine oil wells burning in this part of Southern Iraq, nowhere near as bad as the projection some have made about the scorched earth policy of Saddam Hussein.

And now, take a look forward. This is the convoy, mostly made up of Marines of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines. That vehicle right there, an AAV, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle -- this convoy is heading on west to a new objective. So far, we haven't been told what this is. But eventually the goal is going to be all the way to Baghdad.

For the Marines here, these amphibious vehicles work just as well in the desert as they do in water and they're doing just fine on the highway, a highway that is shared with a lot of mitt terry might, all moving up from Northern Kuwait and farther and farther into Iraq.

Martin Savidge, CNN, with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines in Southern Iraq.


ZAHN: Martin Savidge, pretty harrowing when he described that rocket-propelled grenade whizzing over their heads. Fortunately, as he said, no one was hurt.

Back in this country now, the home front, let us take you to a town near the Army's Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It is on the border of Tennessee in Clarksville, Tennessee. Anxious families watch and await the return of their friends and family serving in the war. David Mattingly has been talking with some of the people there and he joins us now.

Good morning, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula. In and around Fort Campbell this morning after days of watching intense war coverage people here in bad need of comfort food. We're at the IHOP where it seems that what the doctor ordered is a big stack of pancakes for a lot of people. And we've been talking to them about the coverage that they have seen and been going through.

These ladies right here are both former military. You've been watching the coverage. Is it helping you get through this or is it maybe making you more anxious?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a little bit of both, David. Yes, the coverage has been intense, and -- but at least, I get a better feel of what's going on and how you know, how the 101st is playing such an integral role it.

MATTINGLY: Now, you served in the Persian Gulf after the first Gulf War and you have a son who could be deployed now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do. I have a son who is in the Marine reserves near Nashville.

MATTINGLY: How do you feel about the coverage?


MATTINGLY: How do you feel about the coverage? Is it making you more anxious, knowing that he could be going over?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really, because I was there, so I know what our soldiers are doing over in the war. I hope for their safe return, and that the war could be over quickly, as soon as possible. But I'm sure they do an excellent job. They know what they're doing and they'll come out well.

MATTINGLY: All right, thank you very much. And Paula, we're going to go back to you right now. This is a very indicative of the opinions around here. People watching but sometimes they have to turn it off and maybe get a chance for them to breathe and go about their daily lives, so a very anxious time for everyone. They know that the 101st Airborne is on the move because of this coverage. Everyone anxious to find out what happens next -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you so much, David.

Meanwhile, we need to talk about some of the war protests that are going on, in particular here in New York City today. That's where we find Maria Hinojosa. She's here with a preview of their plans.

Maria, good morning.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula. Well, I have to tell you, it seems the march is supposed to start in five minutes and large crowds are amassing, literally in the middle of midtown. We are on 34th Street and Broadway. Organizers said they expecting tens of thousands of people to come out to the streets of Manhattan and say they are against this war. And what I can tell you is what I'm seeing now is lots of people here, lots of police.

But I did want to bring in some people are going to be leading the march. Both of these women, Dawn Petersen (ph) and Colleen Kelly (ph), are members of the September 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. They both lost their brothers on September 11 and they are both against this war.

Colleen, what's going on now that the war has started?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm here today because I am anti-war and I'm not anti-troops. I'm not anti-government. I'm not anti- people. But I'm opposed to this war and I'm opposed to the way our country's responding. I just think there is much better solutions and alternatives.

HINOJOSA: And for you, Dawn (ph), I'm just wondering, you're a new member of September 11 Families. So what's going on for you? You've just gotten involved in this anti-war movement and yet, you're probably thinking about your brother as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I've been involved in the anti-war movement from the get-go and just sort of hooked up with these people recently. To me, it was just essential to start speaking out and not see September 11 used as a reason to go and further American agendas in the Middle East.

HINOJOSA: And as you're watching what's happening in Baghdad, what's happening inside for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's totally devastating. I mean, the fact that we can have -- we've now say that we're going to attack and we've seen that happen on our own soil and we can further -- and to use the Shock and Awe techniques, we know what shock and awe is like. How can we further, you know, these horrible, horrible atrocities? It's unreal.

HINOJOSA: Colleen, very quickly, do you really think that this anti-war movement can have any impact now at all though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's just about anti-war. I think what people are most upset about is the direction of the foreign policy and that's certainly going to continue into the future, regardless of what happens with the war in the present.

HINOJOSA: Thank you very much. Both of these women, both lost their sons. They're going to be starting off leading this demonstration, which, as you see, has already begun. It's probably going to be quite large, Paula. It's probably, they're saying, will be very calm, lots of families, but there have been arrests in past demonstrations in New York City. So we shall see what happens -- Paula. ZAHN: I just saw an aerial shot of the canyon created by these protesters. And it really is hard to get a sense of just how many people are out there today. Maria Hinojosa, thanks so much.

As we close out this hour, we want to look at that picture of downtown Baghdad once again. At about 11:22 Eastern Time, we got reports of yet another explosion being heard. That's on top of the five that were reported already. That was followed by what we saw as a flurry of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, which now appears to be in a lull. General Shepperd, our expert on the ground at CNN Center suggesting this may be coming in advance of yet another aerial barrage from coalition forces.

We have been told by the Pentagon to expect in the first 24 hours of the Shock and Awe Campaign that got underway at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time yesterday, at least 2,000 sorties, 1,500 cruise missiles, bombs, launched. We'll be keeping a very close eye on the sky. As we look now, we don't see or at least I don't see any evidence of Iraqi anti- aircraft fire now.

As we close out the hour, the momentous events unfolding now in Iraq are being captured on film by war photographers. Here now are some of their snapshots of the war so far.



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