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War on Iraq: Iraqi Missile Damages a Kuwaiti Mall

Aired March 29, 2003 - 00:00   ET



AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, thank you. Good morning. It's -- a lot changed since we last talked to you in Kuwait. Have you had a chance to be out and about at all? Do you have any feel for how the missile last night changed people's feelings there?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Have not had a chance. As I mentioned, it's just 8:00 in the morning on Saturday morning. That, by the way, is like Monday morning here in Kuwait City since the weekend is like Thursday, Friday. But I can tell you I was out and about shooting some stories yesterday afternoon. In fact, we were even at that mall that was hit just hours before it was hit. I would imagine that the mood of the Kuwaiti people changed very much. It had become very lax, very -- feeling very secure, people feeling like the first one or two days was the dangerous time, and that they were able to let down their guard. I think last night's missile attack will change an attitude around here in Kuwait -- Aaron.

BROWN: Yes, I think it very much will. Do you have one of the morning papers yet? Did it make the front page of the paper or did it happen too late?

KAGAN: Do not have our papers yet.


KAGAN: We're working on getting that. We will get back to you on that, all right?

BROWN: OK, thank you very much.

KAGAN: All right.

BROWN: Daryn Kagan, who's got the update duty and helps us understand the situation in Kuwait as well.

This is Baghdad right now. We have -- reports that within the last half hour or so, there were -- there was an explosion or there were explosions in the city. We couldn't see it, but we were able to hear them. And if we have that tape, we could probably play it now.

So somewhere outside the city, the business of war is going on. We're waiting -- let me tell you, we're waiting on one of our embeds, Art Harris, who's with the Marine unit in one of the significant fights so far. We're trying to get him on the telephone. But also, General -- Reuters is now reporting the U.S commanders have ordered a pause between four to six days in the northward push because as I read this, really quickly, they have supply issues and they need to get, am I right here, they need to get supplies to the front.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think that's true, but we talked about this the other night. We talked about setting the force. And in reality, there was always going to have to be something like this because the force has to get there, has to do the reconnaissance, has to build up stocks to do the offensive. You got people in some units. Few of the Marine units were wounded. You're going to get some replacements in for those units.

I think the Marines have had the toughest time because they're going through the more populated areas and they have that zone between the Tigris and the Euphrates, which has got tougher resistance, whereas the Army force has bypassed it by going through the desert. But regardless of that, after you make a 250, 300 mile road march, you do have to reorganize a little bit. It's just a question of how long it takes and whether you have to announce it.

BROWN: And what's the -- well, let me ask you about that . Four to six days an unusually long time, short time or normal time? Because...

CLARK: There's nothing normal or routine about it.

BROWN: Right, OK.

CLARK: I mean, we don't normally do 300-mile road marches through the desert like this and set up. I mean this is an unusual operation.

BROWN: I want to come back to this but I don't want to lose Art Harris. Art is around the battle of Nasiriyah. And we haven't heard from him in a couple days now. It has been very nasty out there. Art, it's good to hear from you and report what you can.

ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, good to talk to you.

We are on the edge of Nasiriyah. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heavy artillery, gunships overhead, pounding Iraqi positions. And I'm also told that Marine Infantry is moving in to secure the city, that they will see explosions and hit so close that we were hitting the ground around us, having shaking from the heavy artillery, the pounding of the 155 millimeter Howitzers.

It looks like it's part of the operation that was described to me yesterday by the operations of colonel -- task force (UNINTELLGIBLE) that they were going to be moving in. And the -- the city would be more secure in the coming days. I asked him how secure was secure and he said, "Well, did you go down ambush alley?" And I'd been on twice, and been shot at both times. And I said, Well can you go down ambush alley without being shot at?" And he said, "Well yesterday, the general did and he didn't get shot at." So he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in that things will be more secure in the coming days. And this morning is an indication that they're moving to do just that -- Aaron?

BROWN: And the last couple of days have been like what? Has it been intense or sporadic? What has it been like?

HARRIS: It's been sporadic. There has -- you can hear the helicopter gunships overhead right now. The Cobras coming in close and low. They hit enemy positions or Iraqi positions. But the Marine Infantry and light armored vehicles have been patrolling sectors going out a little farther each day into areas where they believe Iraqis have stashed weapons in fields. They've been finding war positions, machine guns. In one area, Aaron, they found a treasure trove of intelligence information dug up under some boards at an artillery position. And found hundreds of pictures and identifications of specific Iraqi soldiers, along with code books and other material they believe will be very valuable. In fact, they were so excited about it, I'm on the light armored reconnaissance unit that turned the information over, they gave the men goldfish and other goodies.

BROWN: My goodness. Art, how aware are you at any given moment of what's going on a mile away or five miles away?

HARRIS: Well I've been lucky enough to be close to one of the military headquarters here. We also have radios. I'm able to hear over the net. I'm able to debrief officers when they come back from missions and the men. And you know, I've been with them, the night before last, when we were in a two-hour firefight on the bridge here that wound up to be a miracle that no one was hurt or no one was killed. It was a -- turned out to be at least initially an occasion between U.S. Marines and Iraqis. And it turned into a nasty fight between Marines, between friendly forces who were near each other.

So I am in the thick of it, but also able to pull back and get an overview of when I can get to headquarters or get to a radio -- Aaron?

BROWN: Art, just stay with us for a second. This is a -- this is from Baghdad now. And you can see that's the -- the contrails from an airplane or -- probably an airplane, isn't it, general? Might be a missile? Hard to know?

CLARK: Hard to know. I mean, usually an airplane, you know, you see a straight contrail.

BROWN: Right.

CLARK: Looks more look a missile or something.

BROWN: And thank you. And in any case, that's what the Al- Jazeera camera was showing as it pans back.

Art, what can you tell us of casualties in this fight that has been going on now for several days?

HARRIS: Aaron, the -- as far as casualties, several, no, more than 20 Marines were wounded, the other two nights ago. And -- but that is a -- that is the extent that I know about. There have been no casualties among Marines in the last day and a half. Well, I need to check on that. But as the far as -- as Iraqis, I asked the task force. They are not keeping body counts. They (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how well the, you know, they are doing because they say the Iraqis removed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a fair indication of how the final (UNINTELLIGIBLE) casualties go, it is a difficult thing to measure -- Aaron?

BROWN: And, Art, just -- I want to take you all the way back to the beginning here. And just because you're breaking up a little bit, explain to our -- to the viewers now sort of the unit you're with and what they're doing now, and what their expectation is for the next 24 hours or so?

HARRIS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) North Carolina. They are fast-moving, eight-wheeled vehicles with 25-millimeter cannon, 762 machine guns, mortars and anti-tank missiles. And they travel in packs or in pairs. And they have been going out and providing security for the infantry around Nasiriyah. They have been going across the bridges to make sure they are open.

And we are on the outskirts now to provide perimeter security, as well as going out into Nasiriyah and the surroundings with infantry to cover them as they go into the field to look for mortar positions and into the buildings in town now to try to rally out some of the Fedayeen they believe are hiding there and wearing civilian clothes.

It's part of a joint arms attack right now with covert gunships. We've got some LAVs, light armored vehicles in the city covering as I said Marines going door to door. And they are here because they are much more agile than tanks, not as well protected. But they can get to places quickly and get out quickly if they run up against a superior force -- Aaron.

BROWN: Art, thank you. Art Harris, it's good to hear from you after so many days. We look forward to seeing the pictures you're able to get out of there hopefully soon. Art Harris is embedded with the Marines around Nasiriyah. Many of you may be have -- may have tuned in at the top of the hour. We'll try and give you a broad look of where the day has gone and we'll move on from there.


BROWN (voice-over): On day nine of the war, there was combat across the breadth of the theater.


As convoys and supply lines continued to stretch for hundreds of miles. About 40 percent of the country, according to the Pentagon, is now under coalition control, but the Secretary of Defense said another country, Syria, was shipping critical equipment, night vision goggles across the border to the Iraqis.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We consider such trafficking as hostile acts. And we'll hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments.

BROWN: The Syrians vigorously deny it. Inside Iraq, American units surrounding Baghdad seem to be settling in, setting the force in the military's term. The Army's third infantry and the first Marine expeditionary force are positioned near Karbala, 50 miles south of the Iraqi capital. The 101st Airborne is to the west of that. And nearly 200 American helicopters are bringing in scores of foot soldiers as reinforcements for what's expected to be a huge and critical battle with Iraq's Republican Guard.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a field that has only been taken over for a few days, but already it is quickly sprouting into what is going to become a major operation.

BROWN: To help mitigate thinly stretched supply lines, the Air Force has taken control of airfields deep inside of Iraq, bases from where resupply will be easier. In the air, American units work day and night, as CNN's Ryan Chilcote reported.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 101st Airborne just executed its first deep attack. It used its Apache attack helicopters, specifically the Apache Longbow helicopters, sent dozens of these helicopters southwest of Baghdad.

BROWN: Some Iraqis are welcoming the Americans. But the assaults against American and British troops by Iraqi guerrilla forces continue unabated.

CNN's Alessio Vinci is near the embattled city of Nasiriyah, where the price of war is starkly clear.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hostilities in Nasiriyah prevented the Marines from recovering the bodies of their fallen comrades earlier.

BROWN: And Alex Perry of "Time" magazine talked to a local commander near Nasiriyah who summed up the new American attitude.

ALEX PERRY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: One commander addressing his men yesterday, his instructions to his men were if you see an Iraqi civilian coming towards you, even if he's just waving a stick, shoot him.

BROWN: Death was present in Baghdad as well. Al-Jazeera television broadcast the aftermath of what the Iraqi government claims was an American air attack on a residential neighborhood. More than 50 civilians, according to Baghdad, were killed.

Overnight, the explosions continued.


Meantime, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) south in Basra, there were reports from the British that Iraqi Fedayeen had fired mortar rounds on refugees trying to flee the city. And protected by commandos, the supply ship Galahad finally docked in the port of Umm Qasr, bringing badly needed stockpiles of food and water intended for the civilian population. And in Kuwait City, a missile that went undetected by the country's air defense system exploded near one of the city's upscale shopping malls. Only one injury. No one badly hurt. Some physical damage though, but more damage perhaps to the Kuwaiti state of mind.


BROWN: The broad look at the day as it unfolded. The day is unfolding Saturday morning in Baghdad. You see smoke in the sky. There are missile contrail or perhaps a plane. And less likely, General Clark says as we go along, we'll fill in some of the puzzle pieces of the day. Successes and difficulties.

And reporting now that for perhaps the next few days at least, stopping down to resupply the push to Baghdad. Al Jazeera anchorman gets his moment. Our coverage continues in a bit.


BROWN: Well we -- one of the things we try to do is bring as many reporters into the mix each night and each morning as we can. We're especially pleased to have Jack Kelley with us, foreign correspondent for "USA Today." He's in Kuwait City. And Mr. Kelley has written a number of fascinating pieces in the build-up to the war.

And I'll admit, Jack, haven't seen much of the paper since. So we're just glad to have you with us. The last piece I saw that you wrote was how the -- that there was an operation in place to find Saddam Hussein and take him out. Do you -- have you been able to do any more reporting on that?

JACK KELLEY, "USA TODAY": Yes, pretty much at this time most of the U.S. intelligence officials say that President Saddam is most likely in one of his underground bunkers, going back and forth by a series of tunnels to other bunkers. But the most important thing is that he appears to be in control of the country's military response. So although there have been reports that -- that he has been injured, possibly even dead, he's very much in charge at this point.

BROWN: And these -- are these special forces people still in the country still looking for an opportunity or have they been extracted now?

KELLEY: No, most of the Delta Force officials are still there. At this point, they are hoping that President Saddam will make some kind of error, some kind of mistake, either travel outside of one of the bunkers so that they can possibly find him or that one of the CIA's assets within the country, we understand that they have recruited a -- one of President Saddam's inner -- somebody from his inner circle who appears to know where President Saddam sleeps and often goes. We'll kind of hoping he'll tip them off to some more information.

BROWN: Do you -- have you been able to do any reporting on the missile attack that first night that started the whole operation? KELLEY: We've done some. We found out that was pretty much one of the CIA's assets within the country who observed President Saddam and his two sons going into a bunker. And they also say that when the missile hit, that President Saddam was actually inside. And that the asset actually recorded and possibly even took pictures of somebody on a stretcher being carried out with an IV into that person. They aren't certain if that was President Saddam or one of his sons, but they are certain he was inside and it's something that did happen.

BROWN: I mean, this is fascinating detail as this asset, as the CIA refers to and still providing information according to the people you're talking to?

KELLEY: He's still providing information. But one of the things that the federal government has attempted on and failed, we understand, was that there has been a great effort to try to spam some of the country's military generals, some of the intelligence officials to try to get them to lay down their arms before the fight actually begins. They've even sent text messages on their cellphones, saying look lay down your arms and give up and we'll give you some kind of chance in the next government. If you don't, we'll kill you. That effort apparently is not going as well as they had anticipated.

BROWN: Has it borne any fruit at all?

KELLEY: It's borne some fruit. It's borne this member of the inner circle. But what many of the intelligence officials say was that they're being told by many of the generals basically to bug off, that we're in support of President Saddam and our intention is to fight right until the very end.

BROWN: And in that regard, they must be surprised because it -- there's certain in the build-up as you know, there was this sense that given an opportunity, there'd be a lot of surrenders.


BROWN: And that this would go a little bit cleaner than it has.

KELLEY: Yes, many of the -- many of the Pentagon officials and intelligence officials I think are kind of scratching their head at this point saying "why isn't this going as fast as we thought?" There was some speculation that the entire thing could be over within two weeks. Everybody's now talking months instead.

BROWN: Jack, Wes Clark, General Wes Clark is with us. Let me draw him into the conversation.

Anything you want to ask or throw out in this conversation here?

CLARK: How do you feel that we're doing in terms of being able to get other information out of Baghdad on the locations of forces and the movement of key assets beyond the key leadership? Any sense for that?

KELLEY: Well, what's interesting here was that besides many of the satellite photos and the intercepts being done, the Jordanians, the Australians, and several other countries have intelligence assets and their own special forces inside of the country. And Jordan has provided some of the most specific information on President Saddam's -- on his condition, on his whereabouts, and other things. So there are lots of different assets coming in. It's just a matter of having real-time or actionable intelligence. And at this point, they're not sure how much they really have.

BROWN: Jack, obviously without talking about the kind of -- or the kind of sources that you're working with here, are you finding that your sources are more or less willing to talk these days now that the war is in fact on?

KELLEY: They're willing to share bits and pieces. The problem is here was that making phone calls because they know that everybody listens to everybody else. So they're willing to share somewhat. But within the last couple days when Pentagon officials began to scratch their heads and say why aren't things going maybe as well as we thought, there's some hesitancy at this point. I'm still hoping that they'll talk, though.

BROWN: Reporters are always hoping that.

Is it just generally, people are generally willing to say -- at least off the record or in background, that things aren't going as well as they thought without putting their name on it? Is there -- is that much being said?

KELLEY: Well, pretty much so. We -- they'll talk with an understanding that -- that it's to their benefit. When it's not to their benefit, it's so much more difficult to get information out. So now I expect over the next couple weeks to probably be getting less information because the general consensus is -- was that we can't find him. Things aren't going as fast as we'd like. So I think it's going to be a lot more difficult to get people to open up. In the back of everybody's mind is the Osama bin Laden problem. We thought that we could find Osama. In this case, they think they can find President Saddam, but that it's going to be much more difficult than they had anticipated.

BROWN: General Clark, a question or a comment?

CLARK: Well, this is as close as we're coming to getting real- time intelligence...


CLARK: ...on the war from any of these sources here. And so, you know, my question is -- how do the people who are there giving you this information -- you say they're giving it because it's in their advantage? What have they said about the understanding of the Fedayeen early and Saddam's control on his generals, which has led to the unexpected resistance?

KELLEY: What they're saying is that over the last couple days, most of the U.S. intelligence officials and Pentagon officials say that President Saddam has established much more control over his generals, over his army. And with some of the paramilitary forces as they're being called, I think there's almost a state of shock. Because they said, you know we have prepared for a certain kind of enemy within the country. And we're now being faced with some of the paramilitaries controlled by one of President Saddam's sons. And they're much more intense, much more vicious than we ever thought. So the enemy that they prepared for is not necessarily the enemy that they're facing on the ground.

BROWN: Jack, it's good to finally talk to you. We've been trying to track you down for a while. Thank you very much. Jack Kelly, whose byline you will find in "USA Today" and has done some terrific work. We take a break. And our coverage continues in a moment.


KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City with the latest developments on this Saturday morning here in Kuwait. We want to show you a live picture of Baghdad...


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