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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

One of War's Biggest Airstrikes Hit Baghdad

Aired March 28, 2003 - 03:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(NEWS ALERT)
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Reinforcements are heading to Iraq. Thirty thousand troops from the Army's 4th Infantry Division will leave Fort Hood, Texas in the next few days, and another 100,000 ground troops will be deployed to the region in the next month.

In the meantime, coalition ground forces are pressing on toward Baghdad. The Pentagon says allied troops have advanced more than 200 miles into Iraq now. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says some units are within 50 miles of the capital.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There is a lot going on. And as Daryn reported, the U.S. notched up the air war over Baghdad. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SOUND OF BOMBINGS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The sights and sounds of Baghdad at night. A B-2 Stealth bomber dropped a pair of bunker busters on Baghdad last night. Now the impact shook a large area, sent a cloud of smoke over Baghdad. Look at that enormous cloud. Communications center in the heart of the capital and a presidential compound were hit, as well as a missile -- and a missile hit satellite facilities as well, we are told. Just extraordinary pictures.

One of the people observing those pictures, no doubt, is our Rym Brahimi who is in Amman, Jordan. And she's been -- of course she's monitoring all of this from there.

Rym, what's the latest where you are?

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you said, a night of intense bombing over the Iraqi capital, including with the use of those bunker buster bombs. Now those are bombs that are much heavier than the ones that have been dropped over the Iraqi capital so far by the United States. A series of communication links were hit, including in the center of Baghdad an international telecommunications center is ablaze, from what we understand.

We also understand, Anderson, that an area that is host to a couple of government buildings has been hit. It's the area that's actually near that -- where the Information Ministry is, as well as the Foreign Ministry. It's not clear exactly which buildings, for the moment, have been hit precisely or if the buildings have been hit, but definitely those areas have been affected.

And also in hitting those communication areas, well a couple of them were located in very, very popular streets, a street known as Rasheed Street in the center of Baghdad and Sadoon Street. Now both of those, Anderson, are very, very commercial streets. A lot of the shops may have been closed, but they are very, very popular areas in central Baghdad.

I'd like to bring in, Anderson, a guest here who's actually just left Baghdad barely 48 hours ago. Fred Klinger is a Catholic peace activist. And I think we can ask him about the mood in Baghdad when he left.

What was it like?

FRED KLINGER, CATHOLIC PEACE ACTIVIST: Well people are in desperation because all shops are closed so only the basic food stock, bread, water, will be available. But anything else, if you haven't stocked up things, supplies at home, you are really in trouble with the families. And they have no resources left over.

But as regards to militia and the military, and I was able to walk around freely in Baghdad. I had contacts with them. They invited me for tea or something like that, shared their meals with me. They are determined to fight. They're really determined to fight. They just wait for the Americans to come in.

BRAHIMI: What was it like being in Baghdad for the first time but under these circumstances? What struck you the most? And did you -- were you able to speak to people? How did they feel watching all this bombing day and night?

KLINGER: Yes. As a Western European, I was utterly surprised with this kind of warmth and the way people welcomed me. Every -- people of every day -- everyday people on the streets, you know, blowing their horn with their cars passing by because I had the T- shirt on with Arabic no war in Iraq. So they got to know me because I look Western and there are not many Western people around. There are some Americans, you know, from the Iraqi peace team and from the Sheeds (ph), but this is all. So there are 250 Westerners in Basra.

But people got so friendly and so close and so kind with me. It was incredible. I had a beggar kissing my hand when she saw that I was a peacemaker from Europe.

BRAHIMI: Fred, when I was there until a few days ago, the rhythm was pretty much bombing at night and then by morning people would timidly go out...

KLINGER: Yes.

BRAHIMI: ... as bombings seemed to clear up. But now there seems to be bombing during the day. Today is Friday. It's a day of prayer. KLINGER: Yes.

BRAHIMI: What is the scene now on a day like this, for instance, in Baghdad?

KLINGER: When I went, you know, to places, which now got hit, like Rasheed Street which was 20 minutes walking distance from my hotel, bombing now is during the days. And you hear the rockets, you hear the sound and immediate reaction is you try to get cover somewhere because you might be hit by shrapnel or anything like that, but you have to manage.

Everyday life goes on. You have to get -- go shopping, you have to get something, you have to visit a friend, so people are on the -- on the streets. And you try to cope with your fears because bombing is now during the day as well. It's not only in the -- in the nights but also during the days.

BRAHIMI: And then finally, Fred, I'd like to ask you, you left Baghdad, which everybody seems from the outside world we see it as a besieged city. What was your impression when you left that city? What kind of a city did you leave? And you presumably left by road, were there any signs that this was a city that was surrounded and besieged?

KLINGER: Well we passed several military points. But let me say one thing, I mean it was sad for me because I had to leave so many people behind which became very close to me. Above all, my American friends from the Iraqi peace team there who wanted to stay also while the bombing was going on.

And -- but we had to pass through many, many points of military control before we were able to leave Baghdad. And they searched our car. And so it is -- so they do everything they can to stop people just leaving the city. And we had our papers. I was lucky to have three Turkish journalists who took me on a ride with a GM (ph) to Amman. But we were, I think, five or six times control before we could leave Baghdad.

BRAHIMI: Fred Klinger, thank you very much.

So there you have it, Anderson, a city that's been now under intense bombing, not only overnight but now on this Friday, a Muslim day of rest. Bombing has been quite intense, I understand, in the morning and a city that is very much surrounded and checked, a lot of security around it -- Anderson.

COOPER: Both around and inside, no doubt.

Rym Brahimi, thanks very much, live from Amman, Jordan.

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