CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
War in Iraq
Aired March 28, 2003 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such a significant explosion. Things have been thrown literally all over the place here.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Against this enemy we will accept no outcome except for complete victory.
ANNOUNCER: Is the war on the right track.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we did under estimate the willingness of this regime to commit war crimes.
ANNOUNCER: Cooping with what's happening on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will always be things that occur on the battlefield that are not precisely as you calculated them in your design.
ANNOUNCER: Dealing with the results of the air war.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's always complications.
ANNOUNCER: And responding to how the the story is being reported.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have seen mood swings in the media from highs to lows to highs and back again. Sometimes in a single 24 hour period.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Baghdad, Washington, Kuwait City, Texas, North Carolina, and cities around the globe.
WAR IN IRAQ: LIVE FROM THE FRONT LINE.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures of Kuwait city, live pictures of Baghdad, it is 3:00 in the morning in both places in both places, and in both places there had been explosions. This is what it looked like in Baghdad about two hours ago. It appears the target the Ministry of Information. There was a flash of shower of what looks like sparks and then clouds of white smoke and dust. A slightly different view provided by Reuters, a correspondent in the area, huge explosions he said coming from the Information Ministry or buildings very close and then explosions in Kuwait as well. Good evening again everyone I am Aaron Brown at CNN center in New York. We joined as always by Wolf Blitzer, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Aaron the 13th time may have been a charm for the Iraqis. Kuwaiti officials now say flatly it was indeed a missile that damaged the popular shopping mall here in Kuwait City only within the past couple hours it happened at around 1:45 in the morning, little bit more than an hour and 15 minutes or so ago and caused a huge cloud of smoke to spread across the skyline.
Kuwaiti police say a missile landed near the mall in the water. Reports from the scene say the missile fell in the canal just before it exploded. The associated presses is quoting, Kuwaiti officials are saying the explosion caused no injuries and limited damage as you can see from these pictures.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported from this scene earlier that the explosion appeared to be from the ground. But now, we are told officially by the Kuwaitis that it was in fact a missile that was fired at Kuwait. First, the smell of smoke could be felt throughout this area. This is the first time Kuwait's capital has been struck since the Iraq war began.
CNN's John Vause is standing by on the scene. He has got the latest. John.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right Wolf. This is the shopping center where the missile launched. In fact, it's about a 100 feet of that way. The missile came in and impacted on the seabed caused the extensive damage to a pier which goes out into the Persian Gulf. In fact, this is the piece of the missile and we are told that it contained no chemical or biological agents.
They say it was clean, which is why we can hold it up. It had been about an hour or so ago when we first heard it, we felt that from our location a couple of miles away and as you mentioned this is the shopping mall (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very exclusive shopping mall here in Kuwait.
As you can see, emergency cruise here right now caused extensive damage to the outside of the building just over there and it reverberated through the entire shopping mall bringing out part of the ceiling inside as well as blowing out windows as well. What we understand of the missile, it came in from northeast from the Basra area of Iraq.
Now, we are told that another missile came in from that direction is well just hours -- in the early hours of the morning and in fact, it had been fairly quite here, Wolf as you know, after so many air raid warnings and sirens and missiles coming in over the last few days. It had been fairly quite, but of course, this is the first missile that has come so close to Kuwait City.
Most of those all the missiles had either gone into the Persian Gulf just over there or had impacted in the desert north of the city here. Of course, the big concern now is this missile coming so close. There is now concern that the Iraqis who are firing these missiles now know where to send the rest of their missiles -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we know only yesterday, senior U.S. military officers had told us that they destroyed a launcher near Basra that they believe was responsible for firing some of those earlier missiles maybe even all of those missiles, the most of which were destroyed by Patriot air defense missiles. They believe that that missile launcher near Basra had been the source but clearly, there is another launcher somewhere in Iraq that fired this missile and got peerlessly close to this shopping mall causing the kind of extensive damage.
Now, John set the scene for us. It was the middle of the night 1:45 or so a.m. so there were very few if any people at that mall in the cinema, the restaurants, the marina nearby, there was everything was shut closed. As a result, there was a limited amount of damage and there were no casualties as far as we can tell. Is that right?
VAUSE: That's right Wolf. No casualties. No one hurt from this missile attack and as you say, it did happen in the early hours of the morning. And most of the missiles that had been launched to Kuwait had in fact been launched during the day. This one coming around 1:45 A.M. in the morning and normally, this shopping center very upmarket, very upscale shopping mall here like some say the most exclusive shopping mall in Kuwait City would normally be packed with people. So essentially, by coming at this time of day, the place is empty. So that is why no one has in fact been hurt. Let's hand it back now to Aaron Brown.
BROWN: John, is it, just look around. Is it close to residential areas, are there apartments, there was low rise apartments that exist in the city, houses or is it just set out in the commercial area?
VAUSE: Aaron, in fact this is one of the better upscale markets of Kuwait City. Just to my right not far from the shopping mall are in fact homes and apartments blocks. They all -- have a look, it's a great view over the Persian Gulf, great sea views. There are apartment blocks as well not far from here. Yes, this is in fact a residential area and in fact not very far from where this missile hit.
BROWN: And let me just one more out and maybe -- and Wolf with -- you may have an answer here to. The Iraqis have missiles but that don't necessarily have sophisticated guidance. So, is it clear that they hit that target they were aiming or they simply threw a missile out there and that's where it landed -- John.
VAUSE: Aaron, it seems that they have been trying to lob missiles into Kuwait over the last eight days and they haven't hit the mark. They have been landing in the desert. They have been landing in the sea. What we can tell by this missile, it wasn't a Scud.
We are told that it was in fact a clean missile, which means there are no biological or chemical agents in the warhead. It was just an explosive warhead. But certainly, this now gives them the idea of where those missile have impacted and will give Iraqis a better idea if they have any more missiles left, where to point their missiles.
Basically what the coordinates are, where they need to aim them, where they need to strike. This one coming in the closest out of all those missiles attack over the last 8 days. Now what we also now is that this was probably one of those surface to surface missiles, something like a frog seven we're being told which basically is not as powerful as the Scud Missile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we've told also all along that none of the missiles, none of the previous dozen missiles that were fired at Kuwait had in fact been Scud missiles, they had either been the shorter range Ababil missile or the Al Samoud missile or one of those Frog missiles and one of them or two of them have been the sea launch Silkworm missile but we don't know what kind of missile this missile was. In fact, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our CNN Medical Correspondent is on the scene as well. He is joining us on the phone.
Sanjay what are you seeing where you are?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know it's very interesting, we had been here for quite sometime now, the situation is definitely much calmer than it had been about half an hour or an hour ago. Sort of interesting Wolf, as you know I was in camping with Gima (ph) about eight days ago, and a missile got in under the radar at the point. The first we heard of the missile was actually seeing the missile itself and this was very reminiscent to that. There were no alarms before the missile actually exploded and we heard this explosion that was the first sort of signal we got that anything had occurred, this was very reminiscent to that.
Let me also add Wolf, perhaps only about any detection of chemical and biological agent. We actual have our VP, our nuclear biological chemical expert on hand and no detection of anything suggesting chemical or biological agents at this time. It is much calmer now then it was. I am looking out at this walking bridge that goes out to the pier. A significant amount of this has been damaged. And it's pretty clear now this missile actually prior landed in the water and probably skimmed right of off this particular walking bridge -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sanjay, I can actually see you and just describe a bit more of the scene you seeing. Is that parking area there or is that inside the mall? Just tell us what you are looking at.
GUPTA: Let me describe this to you, just to me left here, I don't know if you can still see me but just to my left here is a large portico. This looks like a portico of any big shopping mall that you can see. It is supported by large cement pillars and then there are large cement foundation that's makes up the floor, part of this portico. Just outside that there is a little sort of turn about for cars to pull into and if you can see that through, if you are still seeing the video you will see several guards, an area some of them have sirens on them and just across that is this party of water that we've been talking about with a walking bridge heading out to the pier. So, again the portico, the turn about parking area and then the water, it appears that this particular missile hit into the water probably skimmed off this walking bridge and it created quite an explosion. Interestingly Aaron, the retaining wall between the water and the turn about is intact and appears this explosion actually went primarily sort of up and then came back down to some extent on and rained its damage on to the shopping mall.
BLITZER: Just to orient viewers, you can see there were cut between, we are cutting between live pictures and pictures that were shot earlier, this is very much raw video that's coming in, shaky video at times but as you can see as you look at the inside of the mall now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Abu Dhabi TV some of the damage that was done and you can imagine what it might have been like had it been rich with shoppers at this time of the day. So much of Kuwait City was rebuilt after the first Gulf war because the Iraqis did so much damage after as they left Kuwait. So these are very new malls, very fancy in many cases malls and they are full malls during the day. Sanjay, a sense of, I imagine the Kuwaiti military is there. Kuwaiti civilian police are there. Are there many just civilians coming to look at the scene.
GUPTA: Yes, they are. In fact when we first arrived here which is probably 15 minutes or so at the maximum after the explosion. There must have been several hundred civilians all craning their necks to get a better view of this portico. It was very interesting as people were just allowed literally to come right up to this portico and look at the debris and no one really knew what it was at that point. People were reaching down and picking it up. Other people there were cautioning them against that and then all of a sudden every backed up hundreds of meters as the security came in.
First it was just civilian security, police, fire, ambulance and then may be 15 to 20 minutes we did see some military presence. There are now Kuwaiti officers walking around in fatigues. They did appear to have been testing the air in some way, may be a chemical biological sensor. No one at any time has worn any gas mask. That never seemed to be a significant concern from any of the rescue workers that are on the scene. When we drove up, again basically we did not see any ambulances racing off and we are pretty assured that in fact no one had been injured again. It's just before 2:00 in the morning when this occurred -- Aaron.
BROWN: Wolf, has there been, have the Kuwaitis, is it your sense that the Kuwaitis guard had been dropped in the sense that there had been these launches since the war began and there had been no strikes. Have they started to take for granted that they were safe?
BLITZER: Well you know, it's interesting that you point that out Aaron because it has been at least a day or so, 24 hours since we heard those air raid sirens go off here in Kuwait and after that last missile that came in and was destroyed by a Patriot, the U.S. air force an A10 thunderbolt, the so-called Warthog had gone out and destroyed one of those launchers near Basra that was seen as being responsible for several of the missiles that came in here to Kuwait. So there was a sense that may be the threat had been removed certainly with every incident there were a dozen previous missiles launched at Kuwait. 2.5 million people live in this small country with every incident that went by harmlessly, either missiles destroyed by a Patriot or fallen into the water or the desert. People became more confident that the U.S. military which is of course in huge numbers here in Kuwait would successful be able to protect this Emirate which has strongly supported the United States against Iraq. John Vause is still over there at the mall. CNN's John, give us a little bit more flavor of what's happening right now in the after math of this missile going near that shopping mall.
VAUSE: Well, what's it's quite remarkable about this situation is almost how calm it is. Certainly a lot of emergency vehicles but the scene is surreal in a way because it seems very much in hand, it seems as if the emergency services here had in many, many ways been expecting something like this to happen, quite understandably given the number of air raid sirens and the number of missiles which had in fact been launched towards Kuwait and had hit just to the North and also in the Gulf and affect been shot down by those patriots but certainly it seems to be that the situation now is clearing. That the emergency vehicles are now pulling back.
We do have word that in fact one person has been slightly injured. We understand that they were inside the shopping mall at the time of the missile impacting on the sea wall. They were hurt by falling debris but certainly no major injuries only minor injuries as it's been described but as we said this is a very up market part of Kuwait city. This is the most exclusive shopping center in all of Kuwait. It is an area which would normally be packed but as we said this happened at quarter two this morning. And Wolf I know that you were on the air at the time and just like the rest of us, you felt that huge explosion.
We heard it. We felt it. It vibrated and as you know we're several miles away from this location. So the impact here must have been intense. It must have been huge and we've seen that by the amount of damage inside the shopping mall but right now certainly they've done their chemical checks. It looks as if they have secured the area.
There was some concern for a brief movement that there may have been more missiles coming in. Lights were seen in the sky but that could have anything. That could have flares, which had been put up, no one really knows but it certainly was any more missiles but nerves very, very much on edge here right now. As this missile impacts so very, very close to Kuwait city, this one hitting this mall the rest having been missed or intercepted by Patriots. Now the Iraqis have come the closest they have so far. Aaron.
BROWN: John, thank you. Just keep working. We'll get back to you. We'll keep looking at the scene. To Miles O'Brien here, what can we figure out, two questions Miles? What can be figure out about the kind of missile it was? And the obvious question that follows is how can it be that a week plus into the war with Coalition forces having pushed way North toward Baghdad that the Iraqis are still able to throw a missile into Kuwait.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, lots of good questions and by looking at some of the armaments that we know to be in the Iraqi arsenal, we can give you some good suppositions; that along with some of the video we've seen, and the wreckage, we might be able to get fairly close to identifying what sort weapon this is.
First all, joining me is Major General Don Shepperd, retired U.S. Air Force, who is over at the map table. But first, what I want to do before we go to Don Shepperd, is give you a quick lay of the land here, and give you a sense of how compact this part of the world is. Kuwait is obviously a very small country. As we take a look at the Eartheuro.com (ph) imagery, I want to first of all tell you that this distance, right about here, is about 180 miles.
Now that is the range of a Scud missile, and we're all familiar with Scuds. Let's zoom in a little closer on Kuwait City, and I'll just tell you how close and compact this part of the world is, as we get down here closer. For one thing, you've got the Persian Gulf there, and that's a possible place to launch something of this ilk. But think of this. This is Kuwait City, right over here on this dot, is Basra. That is only 80 miles.
So that suddenly raises the possibility of options here, possible weapons that could be used. Don Shepperd, let's go through the list. Let's take a look at one of the options, as we move the map over toward Basra, and take a look at some of the weapons and the arsenal that could be a possibility. First of all (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that Scud be 180 miles, is that likely?
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. Not likely, because it we would have gotten launch warning, we're very much on alert for this type of launch. If it would have been launched, you'd a seen air raid sirens for sure on this, Miles. I doubt very seriously that that's it. But a possibility.
O'BRIEN: All right. One hundred eighty-five miles, a big long range at high trajectory makes it a big target for radar. We have the Patriot system there that we've been talking about. Let's move on to the next possibility in the list here. Well that's another Scud-B; we can show you there. But there's the Ababil missile, which is kind of a derivative of the Al-Samoud, Al Fatah, in that same rage. Sixty-two miles. Remember that distance to the Basra area, which is still an area that is contested very much, is about 80 miles. So Don Shepperd, I mean that obviously reduces its, its efficient range, but it's still 80 miles, you could lob something in without much accuracy, correct?
SHEPPERD: Indeed you could have. The Ababil 100, we've had about 10 of those shot into Kuwait from somewhere in the desert. But the Basra area is a very likely area of firing of whatever went in there, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Finally, number three on our list of likely suspects, is the Silkworm, and the Silkworm is Chinese-made missile. What is its, its design for, its intended purpose? SHEPPERD: This is an anti-shipping missile fired from the shore at ships, but it can also be fired ground to ground. It's got a range of about 60 miles maximum, but the reason I believe that's what it is, is I saw the pictures earlier of the wings. It appears to be the wings off of Silkworm. It also squares with the fact that they said it hit in a canal behind a berm, opposite the shopping center. It obviously did not hit the shopping center. I saw no fire and no fragments through the shopping center, but it has almost a 1000-pound warhead, like the bombs we've been seeing in downtown Baghdad. So that would cause the blast damage, which we saw in the shopping center, Miles. I think this is the suspect, probably fired from the Basra area.
O'BRIEN: All right, 1,000 pounds. Let's look at that video you saw, that caught your eye here. We have a close-up there of one of the control surfaces, one of the fins if you will. And then on the Internet, at the Federation of American Scientists, we found another image. There's a Silkworm. Kind of has similar coloring or marking, I don't know. What are you seeing there, that makes you put the two together?
SHEPPERD: I'm just looking at the size of the wings. The wings that I saw there are not on the Ababil missile and not on the Scud, and therefore, I think that this is probably what it is. Again an anti-shipping missile that's aimed over ground, and it also flies close to the ground, making it hard to detect, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Hard to detect by radar. Going back to our Earth viewer (ph), just to underscore the point. From Kuwait City, all the way over to Basra, as we said about 80 miles, the range for an efficient and accurate aiming. Sixty miles on that Silkworm, if you're going for a less than accurate shot. Certainly the Basra area is a possibility here, base on John Vause's reporting just a few moments ago, saying it came out of the northeast. I think we can sort of tie this all together, and give you a good idea of what, what is a likely suspect, Aaron.
BROWN: All right. General, General Shepperd, if it's not a Scud, don't we have to conclude that this missile was fired south of where the coalition forces have pushed ahead. That there are still significant problems south of where the bulk of the coalition is now?
SHEPPERD: Indeed, Aaron. The bad guys still own Basra, and my guess is, it came from the bad guy area of Basra. The British are trying to secure Basra, but it's by no means secure. I think that's where it came from.
BROWN: And that they can still, the Iraqi can still not just cause problems to the British marines, who are trying to work that area, and trying to secure that area, but they still have at this point, the capability to threaten clearly, Kuwait City.
SHEPPERD: That's my conclusion. They can threaten you with an occasional missile like this. It's not a serious military weapon, but if it hits in a populated area, it certainly will do damage as we've seen, Aaron. BROWN: General, Miles, thank you both. Sanjay Gupta is on the scene, and has been now for half hour, 45 minutes or so. Doc, what are you seeing?
GUPTA: Well, I'll tell you. Things are much different, much calmer, I think the, everyone, the many civilians that were straining their necks to get a look at this, have now started to dissipate. It appears that one of the ministers is here. We're going to try and send him over to John Vause, with a camera, so maybe we can get some words from him as well. There does appear to still be some debris all around the area, although clean up crews are here now. The lights around the cortical, all that is now down from all the security vehicles. So the situation appears much much calmer than before -- Aaron.
BROWN: This, keep with us. The pictures you're looking at ladies and gentlemen are certainly taped pictures. We don't have the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) up, or we know it gets a little confusing what is live and what is taped sometimes. These are shot by Abu Dhabi TV. We see lots of ambulances in the area; we see lots of military in the area. But again, we emphasize Doc, nobody hurt. Correct? Or nobody hurt seriously.
GUPTA: Yes. That's right, Aaron. We heard that somebody may have been slightly injured by a piece of falling debris. Certainly, thankfully, it was in the middle of the night here. No one was on this walking bridge that appears to have taken a significant amount of the impact. And certainly in the shopping mall itself, there is, I'm looking at it right now; the cement blocks are, had some structural damage, or several windows that were blown out. But again, it was the middle of the night. No one was in there. So, very few with minor injuries. Aaron.
BROWN: Sanjay, stay with it. Wolf, is there anything about this missile, is we believe this missile to be, that would have been a banned armament, under the disarmament agreement that the Iraqis were supposed to have obeyed, and said they obeyed?
BLITZER: Well, it depends on where they fired the missile from. Under the agreement, the 1991, cease fire agreement that ended the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqis were allowed to have ground to ground missiles, provided they did not exceed 150 kilometers in their maximum range, about 100, about 95 miles or so. If it were more than 150 kilometers, it would be banned. If, so that would depend on where the Iraqis launched this particular missile. The 12 other missiles that were fired at Kuwait earlier in the week, we did hear from the Central Command, the Brigadier General Vincent Brooks say that one of the Iraqi missiles that was fired, that landed in the Persian Gulf, went around 190 kilometers. So it was one of those banned missiles.
And as all of our viewers will remember in the final days of the inspections, the U.N. weapons inspectors were in the process of destroying about 120 or 130 Al Samoud-2 missiles, which the U.N. had determined had more than 150 kilometer range. I think they wound up destroying between 60 and 70 of them before the inspectors were pulled out. So presumably the Iraqis still have at least 40 or 50 of those Al Samoud-2 missiles. They have plenty of those Ababil missiles, and they have those Silkworm missiles as well, that General Shepperd was talking about.
So the Iraqis still have missiles that can cause some damage here in Kuwait. I think what is of greater concern to the U.S. military though is as the U.S. military moves up towards Baghdad, there is concern some of those missiles could be launched at forward-marine or army positions in Iraq itself. And that could cause some serious headaches. You were asking before about their guidance systems. The Iraqis have not proven in the past to have very accurate guidance systems. You remember all those missiles 80 or so that were fired during the Persian Gulf War; 40 or so against Saudi Arabia, another 39 at Israel. Most of those landed harmlessly, didn't cause much damage.
The Iraqis did get lucky that one Scud that landed at Daharan (ph), and killed about 28 I believe, U.S. military personnel and injured about 100 others. But they just fire them, they hope they get lucky, and then they do it again. But it's a headache; it's a serious problem. As General Shepperd says, it's probably not going to be a huge military problem, but it is a weapon of terror, and I'm sure the people in Kuwait City and the people throughout Kuwait, are pretty scared right now, based on this hit at this very popular mall, this Souq Sharq, this popular shopping mall here in Kuwait City.
BROWN: Well, we'll keep an eye on that. There are things breaking all over, as we keep one eye on Kuwait. A lot has gone on in Baghdad as well. And now also there is a hostage drama unfolding. This going on but a Turkish Airlines passenger jet that left Istanbul for Ankara was diverted first to Athens, where it's been sitting on the tarmac in Athens surrounded by the terrorism police.
CNN's Fredricka Whitfield has been covering this story from Ankara. She joins us now on the telephone with what available details there are on a hijacking -- Fredricka.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Aaron. Well, that plane is still on the ground in Athens, and the foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, of Turkey, as well as the transportation minister, Banali Glerem (ph), have all placed phone calls into the hijacker on the plane trying to convince him to surrender. According to the transportation minister, they do believe that it's one alleged hijacker and not a number of them.
They've tried to surrender and end this peacefully. There are nearly 200 people onboard this flight, TK-160, as you said. It was heading from Istanbul to Ankara. That was the plan. But about 20 minutes into the flight somehow, according to passengers who telephoned a number of television stations, they described that this hijacker then went to the cockpit and then managed to get this plane to divert itself to Athens.
It is the reported ambition of the hijacker to have this plane make its way all the way over to Germany, any one of three airports in Germany. But apparently it wouldn't have enough fuel. This plane then landed in Athens about an hour-and-a-half or so after it reportedly took off and it has been on the ground. It was forced down, actually, or escorted down to the Athens airports by a Greek F- 16 military jet.
As far as we know, no reports of any injuries onboard while this has been taking place now. We are now entering about two to two-and- a-half hours since all of this reportedly began. And that's really all we have for now. We don't really know how the negotiations are going right now, except that these telephone calls (UNINTELLIGIBLE) continue to take place.
BROWN: OK. Fredricka, let me run down a couple of quick questions. You'll know the answers or you won't at this point. It's early on. 204 people onboard is the report that we're getting. Is there any indication that what is happening there, this hijacking is in any way, shape or form related to the war that's going on across the Turkish border in Iraq?
WHITFIELD: Yes. Fair enough question, but so little is being described and revealed about what is taking place that really it's anyone's guess. And we can't guess on that right now. There is a press conference that was expected to take place just a short time ago, but that hasn't happened just yet. And hopefully during this press conference at the Athens airport, perhaps more information will be revealed about any motivation or any potential link to what is going on across the border in Iraq.
BROWN: And, Fredricka, again, quickly, if you know, we saw one report that said this hijacker, this lone hijacker, as it's being reported to us, who wants to go to Germany has explosives strapped to his body. Have you heard that at all?
WHITFIELD: I heard that Reuters did report that, but no confirmation coming from any reliable sources. The foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, nor the transportation minister, Banali Glerem (ph), neither of them would confirm whether that is indeed the case.
BROWN: OK. Fredricka, stay with us and stay on this. And we'll get back to you. So you have the hijacking going on there, which may or may not be related to the war across the border in Iraq. A press conference scheduled and we should know more -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Aaron.
Amidst all of this there were some heavy U.S. bombing raids over Baghdad earlier this night as well. One significant explosion rocked the Ministry of Information. I want to bring in CNN's Nic Robertson, our former Baghdad correspondent. Now he's monitoring the situation along the Iraqi border in Jordan. Talk a little bit, Nic, about these latest U.S. air strikes against various targets, including the Ministry of Information in Baghdad.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, unclear how damaged the Ministry of Information may have been in this late evening bombing. What is clear from one of the cameras located physically on that building -- and this is a camera that looks alongside of the Ministry of Information, out across the River Tigris -- when the explosion went off, the whole sky ahead of it illuminated quite brightly. But debris then landed very, very close to that camera position right on the Ministry of Information.
Now the Ministry of Information is constructed with quite a large wide lower level, and then a more central portion of the building that rises up off that lower level platform, if you will. And it was on that lower level that this debris began to land. But unclear what sort of damage has happened there.
But with that explosion, and the explosion a little earlier in a market in Baghdad, clear from Iraqi officials and the people in Baghdad that there's a high level of anger developing about these latest bombings.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): A brilliant flash illuminates the area around the Information Ministry in Baghdad, as what appears to be government buildings in the center of the city are targeted. Only a few hours earlier, crowds gathered around a crater in a suburban neighborhood. Impossible to see how deep it is or what caused it. According to Iraqi officials, who rushed journalists to the site just after dusk, the damage caused by a coalition bomb.
In a nearby hospital, the injured were still being brought in. Many clearly in pain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Around 6:00 PM, an enemy aircraft attacked the neighborhood while we were in the hospital. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this morning's attack. This coward aircraft attacked a popular market filled with residents.
ROBERTSON: According to the hospital's staff, at least 51 people were killed, and more than 50 injured. From these pictures alone it is impossible to verify the number of casualties. Several children, however, seemed to be victims. Within hours of the blast, Iraq's information minister lambasted coalition forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My explanation is that this is a heavy aggression on civilians to cover up for a series of defeat that our army caused them in the desert and the neighborhoods in Baghdad.
ROBERTSON: Coalition forces said they could not confirm an attack in this neighborhood. In a war whose images seem increasingly split between civilian casualties and front line conflict, this latest incident looks set to widen the divide.
ROBERTSON: And certainly the Arab broadcasters were able to monitor from here, Wolf, that is the tone that's being picked up. The civilian casualties, very much angering their audiences as well at this time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic, please stand by with us. I want to get back to you and talk a little bit more about these huge bomb blasts in Baghdad tonight. But I want to first go back to CNN's John Vause. He's at that shopping mall here in Kuwait City that suffered a missile attack just a little while ago and he's got a special guest. Go ahead, John.
VAUSE: Wolf, yes, we're here at the parking lot where the missile came down about two hours ago. Now joining me to talk more about this is Kuwait's information minister, Sheikh Ahmad Fahd Al- Sabah. Sir, if you could just explain to our audience, what do you know about this missile?
AHMAD FAHD AL-SABAH, KUWAITI INFORMATION MINISTER: In the morning there was a missile sent by the Iraqi regime. We think it's a kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) missile, because this kind of missile knows (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Although in the Kuwait defense ministry, or in Doha U.S. camp, they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) twice before. This is the third time.
It was very close from the shopping mall in the center of Kuwait City. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) destroying the facility, but there is no accident or no injury in this situation.
VAUSE: Sir, can you explain why we did not hear an air raid siren? There was no warning.
AL-SABAH: This kind of missile, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This kind of missile usually flies between 20 to 25 meters over the land. For that, there's no defense system that can reach it.
And even with (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's not only with our system. For that, this is the third time. We cannot hear the defense system, and we have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the country.
But we have to be -- usually accept this kind of missile, because we know Iraq, they used this before. They used it against us twice, and this is the third time. They used it in the Iraq-Iran War, and they used it in the liberation of Kuwait. And this is the third time.
VAUSE: And so no chemical or biological agents detected on this?
AL-SABAH: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the chemical (UNINTELLIGIBLE) groups (ph) is (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and they are making their procedure for the chemical effect, and until now it's negative.
VAUSE: And so far the Patriots have been fairly successful in shooting down other missiles. But not on this occasion, because of the trajectory in which it came in.
AL-SABAH: Usually the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) don't reach this kind of missile. This kind of missile can be reached by the normal defense air system, which is on -- or we have here in Kuwait. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Italian system. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) usually we can -- its very effective on the scud missile and the different kinds of scud (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Saddam is calling those kind of missiles.
But this one, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of this kind of missile. This is really (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and we have to be reached in the normal (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because it's not very high. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), then we can deal with it. VAUSE: OK. Sir, thank you very much for giving us that information. And, Wolf, as we just heard the information minister telling us, those teams from -- those Czech teams, rather, are here, checking for chemical, biological agents. So far we're told that it is clean and that it may have just been a low explosive warhead. But still causing quite a bit of damage to this shopping mall -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well when he says -- the information minister, John -- that it was flying at a relatively low level, 20 to 25 meters, that would seem to suggest the kind of silkworm missile that shipped to shore, if you will, that General Shepperd was talking about earlier flying below radar. And that would explain, of course, why there were no air raid sirens that went off.
There was no early warning that would have alerted the people of Kuwait City that there was a missile, an incoming missile, which, as you and I personally know from our experiences here almost two weeks now, that the sirens almost always go off. Twelve missiles fired at Kuwaiti targets over the past week or so. Almost all of those missiles preceded by air raid sirens.
It was hard for me to understand specifically everything that the minister was saying, John, but maybe you can recap the details, the headlines, what he said specifically, since I think many of our viewers may have had a hard time understanding precisely what he was saying.
VAUSE: Wolf, what he was trying to explain -- I'm having a hard time hearing you right now. But I think what the information minister was explaining, basically, is that this missile was coming in at a low trajectory. Now the scud missiles, which so far have not been launched -- it's important to point that out. This is not a scud missile; in fact, no scud missiles have been launched at Kuwait or any country.
They haven't launch good scuds period. So these missiles are the surface-to-surface ones that come in at a very low altitude and a very flat trajectory. So it makes it very difficult for the Patriot missiles -- or it makes it impossible for them to intercept.
And what the information minister was saying is basically the only way that these missiles can be shot down is if you see them by the eye. If you can see them coming in, and then try and shoot them down with the triple A, the anti-aircraft fire, or some other kind of system -- but the Patriots just are not effective against these low trajectory missiles.
So that's been the situation here. He explained that there have been three of these kinds of missiles so far. One falling to the north, one hitting the Persian Gulf, not far from here. This one coming so very, very close, damaging the shopping mall by the pure power of the blast, because it hit the sea wall. And the vibration causing the ceiling inside the shopping mall and all of the windows to be blown out; the ceiling to come down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And clearly the pressure is now on the U.S. military, the British military to find the launcher, to find the area where this missile may have been launched from in order to not give the Iraqis an additional opportunity to calibrate precisely where this missile landed so they could fire another one down the road.
John Vause and Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much for that excellent reporting on the scene at the shopping mall here in Kuwait City, the target of an Iraqi missile that landed earlier tonight. An Iraqi missile that caused some extensive damage to the mall, but only one minor injury to an individual who happened to be unlucky enough to be at that mall at the wrong time.
Aaron, let's bring it back to you.
BROWN: OK. Let's go back to Nic, then, because Nic was almost in mid sentence. Nic Robertson, the images -- first of all, it's a pretty striking difference between the image of the Kuwaiti shopping mall that was hit and the Iraqi marketplace that apparently was hit earlier today.
Ultimately, these pictures both get played around the Arab world. They get played particularly vividly in the custom of foreign television services, as you know. The impact will be considerable, won't it?
ROBERTSON: Coming so soon after what appears to be a similar situation the day before that would seem to be the case, Aaron. Already, one of the Arab broadcasters we are monitoring from here is describing what happened in this evening's blast as a massacre, and that is very emotive language.
We've also seen demonstrations today in Jordan by people protesting about this war. Of course, what the leaders of the countries in this region are most concerned about is when the protests turn from focusing on the war to the leadership of their own countries. And in Jordan today, there was criticism of the leadership of Jordan. That also with people saying they supported President Saddam Hussein.
And that's what we've seen over the last few years here, really is -- and particularly noticeable compared to the last Gulf War -- is support for the Iraqi leader has really dwindled here. There's a lot of support for the Iraqi people, but not for the Iraqi leader. So these sorts of images will no doubt raise the temperature in communities and countries in this region. And words like "massacre" being used to describe what we've seen in the marketplace tonight will not help lower the temperature at all.
BROWN: And this is exactly why the American strategy or the coalition strategy has been to try and avoid entering cities doing damage within cities. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes missiles go a stray, and sometimes it can't be avoided. But it is that political concern that it will destabilize other Arab governments that makes the coalition so nervous.
ROBERTSON: And, of course, the Iraqi authorities know that full well. And it appears to be very much a central part of their strategy to destabilize in that way and undermine the coalition and try and raise international opposition to the war by giving full access to journalists in Iraq whenever there are incidents like this, whenever there are a number of civilian casualties.
From what I heard from reporters in Baghdad this evening, within half an hour of the blast going off in this market area, the journalists were being called by the minister of information and told to get themselves over to that area, to go and see what had happened and to go to the hospital. Now what journalists are not able to do -- and this was the situation we found ourselves in Baghdad just last week -- is we were not able to go and look at the damage to government buildings, go look at the damage to military facilities.
It is the civilian casualties the Iraqi government focuses on. And it knows that that is perhaps one of its strengths that it is able to play to in all of this conflict. Because it knows that will undermine and challenge the coalition's strength and unity at this time -- Aaron.
BROWN: Nic, thank you. And it's not just across the Arab world. These pictures get picked up across Europe as well, where this's anti- war feeling. All of this part of the propaganda strategy, if you will, to put pressure on the coalition to stand down, to stop the war, to pull back. Not likely to happen, but that's the strategy.
Meantime, there is in fact a war going on. Ryan Chilcote is with the 101st Airborne, and they they've been extremely busy of late. Ryan joins us now.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, a busy night for the 101st, Aaron. The 101st Airborne's Aviation Brigade just completed its first deep attack inside Iraq. What that means is they sent their Apache attack helicopters. In this case, they sent out their Apache attack Longbow helicopters -- that's the new version of the Apache attack helicopter -- southwest of Baghdad, within the vicinity.
I can't be very specific, but I can tell you within 100 miles southwest of Baghdad to attack the Medina Division. That is an elite Republican Guard division. They took out some APCs. They also took is out some tanks.
Before they went out there was one mishap: a crash landing. A helicopter took off, came back with some kind of maintenance problem, and as it was landing -- because of what's called brown out -- it did roll over. That happened again when the helicopters were returning. Another helicopter apparently in the same kind of rollover -- a brown out, rather, conditions rolled over.
In both cases, all of the pilots are more or less OK. One of the pilots may have broken a leg. But we understand that there's no life- threatening or very serious injuries.
Now we actually have one of the pilots with us that was on that mission. He can describe us what happened. Jeff Wellington -- CWO Jeff Wellington, what was it like? Can you describe what you saw? CWO JEFF WELLINGTON, PILOT 2ND BATTALION: Pretty much as soon as we rolled up in there we came in contact with several tanks, APC armored vehicles from the Republican Guard. Began to attack them indirectly with CAS, close air support from the Air Force, and also direct fire from our own platforms.
CHILCOTE: And you, yourself, you took out a couple. Can you describe? You told me that you took out a couple of tanks.
WELLINGTON: That's correct. We used the Hellfire missile onboard the aircraft, which is laser guided. We're using the gunner in the front seat, and he guides the missile and the impact on the tanks.
CHILCOTE: Any resistance? Any return fire?
WELLINGTON: We occasionally saw some small arms. A few artillery rounds came out of the city. Other than that it was pretty minor.
CHILCOTE: Give people an idea of what it's like sitting inside of an Apache on one of these missions. What's going through your head? What do you see? How high are you flying?
WELLINGTON: We are roughly about what we call NOE, nap of the Earth. It's about 50 feet. We were doing something what we call high-energy tactics, where the aircraft consistently moves in on a target and then turns up. We always have an aircraft moving in on a target at all times.
It's pretty dark out there. We fly around with one eye using the night vision devices. And your head's on a swivel. You're looking all over the place because you don't know exactly where the enemy might pop up at any given moment.
But we're out there looking, both the back seat system and the front seat system. And doing our best to fix the targets and take them out.
CHILCOTE: How difficult is it to find these targets? I mean you said you destroyed some tanks. Are they apparent out there or are they in the middle of the street or in the middle of the desert?
WELLINGTON: Most of the ones we found tonight were in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They had bunkers set up around them. Very difficult to find at night.
We used the flair, which is -- it uses contrast between hot and cold elements out there and do the desert -- during the day. Heats the tanks up, and then at night, as they cool down, it becomes more difficult as they get colder to identify them out on the battlefield.
CHILCOTE: And I understand your wife is flying as well.
WELLINGTON: That's correct. She was out on the same mission, not in the same area. She was a little further north than me. But I did hear her on the radio, and she was doing good.
CHILCOTE: Great. Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Wellington, from the 101st Airborne's Aviation Brigade -- Aaron.
BROWN: Ryan, can you ask him for me if this was their first -- was this their first engagement? And did it go as the training suggests it should go?
CHILCOTE: Sure. The question is, was this your first engagement and first attack? And did things go as you expected them to go?
WELLINGTON: For my company and my battalion, it was our first deliberate attack. Everything went real well. We did have some unfortunate accidents here in the brown out conditions. It's a very dangerous environment to fly in, as you all know.
But all in all, I think the mission went well. And it help us to boost our confidence. So we learned some things that we're going to take back and look at and hopefully employ them on further missions throughout the rest of the campaign.
CHILCOTE: Why do you -- if I might venture a question here -- why use helicopters to go after these targets, as opposed to fixed- wing aircraft or tanks on the ground? Explain what this Apache -- why it's so useful.
WELLINGTON: Well, we have the ability now with the Longbow to, what we call merge targets, air defense targets, which helps the Air Force. They don't have to come down as low.
We find and fix the targets. We shoot our fire and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) missiles, take out the ADA (ph), and then we start hitting the tanks, hitting the APCs and the armor, which allows the ground maneuver elements to move up in there and not have to go up against a pretty strong force.
CHILCOTE: Again, Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Wellington. Back to you.
BROWN: Ryan, thank you very much. Just keep in mind that, as he was doing all that, the intensity of what he was going through, his wife was flying the same mission. And somewhere in his mind he had to know that, as did she. Ryan, nice work -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Aaron. From the southern part of Iraq to the northern front in this war, cargo planes continue arriving at the Harir airfield that's been secured by U.S. Army paratroopers just before dawn on Thursday. CNN's Brent Sadler is in Harir.
BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Iraqi Kurds picnic on a sunny day, relaxing in a region the United States calls free Iraq. Free, that is, from Saddam Hussein. But getting rid of the Iraqi dictator once and for all, says primary school teacher Feris Uma (ph), will take time. "The regime has a strong army," he says. "Patience is very important here." But patience it seems is wearing thin. Iraq's main opposition groups say they're ready to fight the fight. Now calling all Iraqis to rise up and help liberate their towns and cities from dictatorship, much as they did in the north and south of Iraq after the last Gulf War 12 years ago, only to end in slaughter and defeat. But any concerted attempt to spark a second uprising outside the command and control of the United States faces a lukewarm reception.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any move that takes place had to take place within that command structure, otherwise we do not favor any participation of any force that doesn't meet that criteria.
SADLER: Iraqi Kurds, with tens of thousands of fighters, have put themselves under U.S. command. They face Iraqi lines along a northern front. A heavily bombed front which may be starting to crack.
Iraqi troops have abandoned their key position on the road to Kirkuk, replaced by Kurds, moving 12 miles closer to the oil-rich city. But Kurds know they are still not safe. A smoke bomb in Erbil raising alarm. An act of terror, say the authorities, here, aimed at spreading fear and terror, they say, among people living in the city of Erbil. But it didn't stop these Kurds putting war and terror aside for this day.
"We hope those people in the government-controlled areas will soon be freed," says sixth grade student Ozan (ph), "so they can enjoy life like us."
(on camera): There's a visible lifting of tension here now that American troops are on the ground. These people can clearly see the bombing of Iraqi lines, but all-out war in the south feels far away. Brent Sadler, CNN, Erbil, northern Iraq.
BLITZER: So the war continues on multiple fronts around Baghdad in the north, the west, and, of course, in the south, where U.S. troops, together with their British allies, are moving forward.
Aaron, this has been a night we've seen extensive bombing, extensive explosions in Baghdad, as well as a missile, the 13th Iraqi missile that was fired at Kuwait. This one did indeed cause some damage, some physical damage. One minor injury here in Kuwait City not that long ago.
And I have to tell you, even though I'm pretty far away from that shopping mall where the missile hit -- at least it hit near that shopping mall -- right now, because of the winds, all of us here beginning to get the good scent, beginning to smell the aftermath of the smoke and the damage that was caused here in Kuwait City. The people of Kuwait just beginning to get up amid all of this. Just now beginning to hear the morning call for prayer on this Saturday morning here in Kuwait. BROWN: And it just underscores two imperatives it seems from here. One is that, not only has the coalition to this point been unable to secure these cities -- a city like Basra in the south -- and protect its own supply lines, this 300-mile supply line that's running to the north that continues to be harassed and harassed, sometimes more seriously than other times, but in its inability to control those cities.
They still have a problem with the Iraqis being able to attack back, if you will, south into Kuwait. And that creates a whole different set of problems. So it underscores the Iraqi strategy to a degree, to pull into the city, to keep forces into the city, and to, in effect, challenge the coalition to come into the cities if they want to take them out.
BLITZER: And you're absolutely right, Aaron. And what it will do is put enormous pressure now on the central command, the U.S. military and the British, before they think about going all the way up to Baghdad to secure the southern part of Iraq in order to protect Kuwait. This ally of the United States, two-and-a-half million people or so who now feel increasingly more vulnerable as a result of the Iraqis getting one of their missiles into Kuwait City and hitting a popular mall.
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