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British Ship Carrying Humanitarian Aid Moves Toward Umm Qasr

Aired March 28, 2003 - 04:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. At this hour while the war goes on, many people find themselves on the outside looking in; big businesses hope they can still find time to spend.
Our Candy Crowley explains.

Actually, no -- we're not going to do that; we're going tell you what's happening right now. Over the last several hours we got word that two bunker busters clobbered targets inside Baghdad. A B-2 stealth bomber delivered some devastating ordnance. At least one of the bombs -- at least one of them was a GBU-37 -- the bunker buster weighs more than two tons -- target said to be a major communications link. And western reporters also say a presidential palace was struck.

Moving on, President Bush insists there's no time frame in the Iraqi war -- only a non-negotiable objective to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair huddled at Camp David to discuss the ongoing military campaign. Afterward the President said, "This isn't a matter of a timetable; it's a matter of victory."

A long delayed deployment today -- 30,000 soldiers were at the Army's 4th Infantry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas and are shipping out of the Gulf. The Pentagon says they'll be followed by another 100,000 ground forces over the next month.

Search teams are scouring the desert near Nasiryao for 12 missing Marines. We've been following this story all morning. If not found within 48 hours they'll be classified as missing in action. The area has been an intense battlefield for the past several days now. 11 of the 12 Marines are with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

And a British ship loaded with 200 tons of humanitarian aid for Iraq is making its way to the port of Umm Qasr right now. It is due to dock today, finally. Fighting in the city and mine clearing in the waterway delayed the ship's arrival.

Here at home, police arrested 250 antiwar protestors who staged what they called die-ins at various locations in Midtown Manhattan. The protestors laid down at intersections to act as mock war victims -- that's why they call it the die-in. There were other antiwar rallies in New York City, including a church gathering with celebrities, including documentary film producer, Michael Moore. And it may soon be quitting time for Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector, Hans Blix. His United Nations contract ends this June; and he told a Japanese television station he does not propose to extend it.

We are bringing you live reports on several fronts in the war on Iraq. Here's what's coming up at this hour.

Iraqis, desperate for food aid -- a huge shipment is on the way, as we just mentioned. We are tracking it for you. We'll bring the pictures as soon as we can.

President Bush and his staunch ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair came out of their meeting with both caution and tough talk. We'll bring you a live update from Washington.

And images of war -- we'll talk to a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who is capturing the various angles of the conflict on film.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. It's 4:03 a.m. Eastern time. You're taking a live look at a picture of Baghdad -- as you can see, much smoke in the air. Now according to Reuters there have been several explosions, oh, just a short time ago; and they believe the Iraqis are firing back.

Of course earlier, overnight the United States dropped two bunker buster bombs on a target in Baghdad and it shook a large area of the city. One of the targets, this among others, was the International Communications Systems; and of course that operates Iraq's phone system. But again, within the last hour or so -- two more explosions in the city of Baghdad, where it is 12:04 p.m.

I'm Carol Costello, along with Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us. And if you didn't see the picture, the mushroom -- and it literally did appear to be a mushroom cloud -- was just enormous; and caused a lot of people wondering what sort of ordnance was being dropped. I think Daryn's going to have more on that very shortly.

COSTELLO: Much more on that. But first we want to go to the map and give you a visual sense of where coalition forces are right now inside Iraq.

Under the watchful eye of coalition forces, a British ship with humanitarian supplies is making its way to a shipping channel to the port of Umm Qasr. Moving inland, coalition forces are also still in Basra, Nasiryao, and Najaf. And up in northern Iraq, U.S. troops are digging in at an airfield after parachuting in under the cover of darkness on Wednesday night.

Okay, now Daryn has more on the damage in Baghdad and what happened overnight. Let's go to her live in Kuwait. Good morning, Daryn. DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning -- or I should say good afternoon. We've just passed 12:00 noon here in the Persian Gulf. Hello from Kuwait City.

I want to talk about what was happening in Baghdad overnight. Some of the largest explosions that have taken place so far in the war -- first we have the pictures to show you, and then some graphics to explain some of the explosions and explosives that were used.

I think that Carol mentioned some of the targets here -- the International Communications Center, and buildings around there -- very close to the Information Ministry -- those were all damaged. Large clouds of smoke, as you mentioned -- hundreds of feet in the air over Baghdad. And we're getting word then, with daylight happening that there's even more explosions taking place.

What explosives are being used? Well we'll getting word from some of our embedded reporters that 10 Cruise missiles -- at least 10 Cruise missiles came from some ships in the eastern Mediterranean.

Also, as we show you this graph of the GBU--37 -- this is a bunker buster. We've heard that there have been at least two bunker buster bombs used. One of those, at least, is GBU--37. This is a hardened warhead that is designed to penetrate underground bunkers, where perhaps some Iraqi leadership could be hiding.

I want to get to another story that we mentioned off the top of the hour -- and that is what is happening at this hour in the port of Umm Qasr. This is where a British ship, the Sir Galahad, is making its way into port with 200 tons of aid for the Iraqi people -- much anticipated, both by the coalition forces trying to show their good will; and especially by the Iraqi people who have been hurt so badly; not only by this war, but by 12 years of sanctions.

Also along with the Sir Galahad -- a number of other coalition ships, including the HMAS Kanimbla; and we have our Becky Diamond on board there to tell us more about the mission of that ship, as well as the aid on its way to Iraqi people. Becky; hello.

BECKY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Well it was quite a moving sight this morning on the HMAS Kanimbla. Here on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- that's the (inaudible) part of the ship -- it's sort of a deck to a layperson -- there were many sailors watching as the Sir Galahad passed this ship by about an hour and a half ago on its way to Umm Qasr.

Now it was quite an emotional moment. A lot of the sailors came out and they took pictures and they were smiling; and they were talking with each other about the humanitarian ship. The HMAS Kanimbla is overseeing mine counter measures here in the northern Persian Gulf, and it was responsible for clearing a channel, or a small path in the KAA waterway -- that's the waterway leading from the Gulf up to Umm Qasr.

Now because of possible mine--like objects that were detected and detonated yesterday in this waterway -- in the port area of Umm Qasr -- the Galahad was delayed. So this was quite a celebration this morning to see this ship pass by. And there was a convoy of ships with the Galahad, each ship flying a different flag. It was led by a British minesweeper that was in front, then the Galahad. Behind it were an American, a Kuwaiti, and a British patrol -- all patrol boats.

KAGAN: Becky, a couple questions for you here -- first of all, I understand that you've been on board the Kanimbla as it did go ahead and find some of those mine--like objects. And you were actually able to experience what it felt like to have one of those detonated. What was that like?

DIAMOND: It was, to be quite honest, extremely scary and anxiety--provoking. There was a mine--like object found about two miles from this ship, and they detonated it; and there was an explosion, and the ship rocked and shook, and it was quite loud. And I looked to the XO, who is the executive officer of the ship, and I was almost in a panic; and said; what was that? Because we're in a -- what's called a code yellow mine alert. And he said; that was a mine--like object that we detonated. And he said it contained about a fifth of the explosive power that a mine (inaudible). So just imagine what it would have felt like if this ship would come into contact with a mine.

And of course that's a huge concern on the part of this ship, and they are undertaking measures to clear more of the waterway right now.

KAGAN: Well that gives a good picture of exactly why they're taking things so slow, and why the big holdup in getting this 200 tons of aid to the Iraqi people. Becky Diamond, on board the HMAS Kanimbla -- thank you so much for that report.

With that, we're going to take it back to Carol and Anderson.

COOPER: All right Daryn, thanks very much. We are going to go to Bob Franken, who is on an air base, as he has been for much of the time in the region, who may have some word on some Iraqi prisoners of war. Bob, what's the latest where you are?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well (inaudible) We've had the Air Force convoy -- we cannot tell you -- was a big supply convoy that came from our base where we were, south -- close to the Iraq border on the other side.

Now we are in southeastern Iraq at an air base that was taken several days ago from the Iraqis. We are not able, under our restrictions, to name it, but it is a base that is going to be turned into what the wing commanders call a vital forward air base for U.S. operations. In the next day or two they intend to have this up and running so A--10 planes can operate in and out of here; and other operations, including search and rescue.

COOPER: Bob, I'm sorry to interrupt, we have a press conference in Baghdad that we are going to go to -- the Iraq's Information Minister is speaking. Let's listen in.



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