The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Missile Makes it to Kuwait City

Aired March 29, 2003 - 02:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City.
An early morning Iraqi missile attack hit Kuwait City for the first time since the war began. A Chinese-made Seersucker missile hit around 1:40 a.m. this morning Kuwait time. There was some damage to a shopping mall but just two minor injuries.

Other developments.

Explosions rocked Baghdad again today. Iraq's information ministry was among the targets of the latest round of bombings. Arab media reporting another explosion in a marketplace has killed 52 people. Iraqi officials blame coalition air strikes, but U.S. officials say they cannot confirm exactly what hit the area.

Early on Friday, the 101st Airborne successfully flew a convoy of 200 helicopters from Kuwait deep into Iraqi territory. That mission moved soldiers into position into central Iraq. According to the 101st, Friday's operation marked the longest move into any territory in military history.

The U.S. State Department says that two terrorists plots involving Iraqi intelligence officers were foiled in recent days. The attacks allegedly were planned on U.S. interests in Jordan and one in another country. Arrests have been made. Explosives have been confiscated.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned the Syrian government about military shipments making their way into Iraq. Rumsfeld said that the military supplies, including night vision goggles, were passing across the Syrian border. He said if the shipments continued, Syria would be held accountable.

And the hijacking of a Turkish airline jets ends in surrender after a six-hour standoff. The accused hijacker, a 20-year-old Turkish student, who wanted to be taken to Germany where his mother and sister had been arrested. The plane ended up in Athens, Greece, where all 203 people aboard were released unharmed.

Coming up this hour in CNN's coverage of the strike on Iraq, we're going to have more for you on the early morning missile attack here in Kuwait City. We'll show you that damage closeup.

Also, oil wells ablaze. How do coalition forces plan to safely put out the remaining oil well fires in southern Iraq? Are there hidden dangers there? And, yes, they are dolphins. We're going to show you how Flipper and friends are working with U.S. Navy sailors to make the Port of Umm Qasr safe for humanitarian aid.

And now back to our continuing coverage of the war in Iraq with Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, thanks very much.

Good morning. You are looking at a live picture of Baghdad, 10:02 a.m. in the morning, a picture we have gotten very used to seeing over the last 10 days or so.

Major explosion in Baghdad over the night. Daryn just told you about that shortly ago.

Good morning, everyone. It is Saturday, March 29. From CNN's global headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Anderson Cooper.

KAGAN: And I'm Daryn Kagan in Kuwait City. It is 2:00 a.m. on the East Coast, it is 10:00 a.m. in Baghdad, and just after 10:00 a.m. here in Kuwait City as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Daryn. We'll come back to you shortly.

We're going to get an update right now on coalition troop movements. The U.S. Army's 101st Airborne is hailing it as the longest air-assault operation in military history. Two hundred helicopters lifted scores of soldiers deep into Iraq on Friday.

U.S. and British forces have been battling Iraqi irregulars for control of Basra's, Iraq's second largest city. A lot of activity there. We're going to tell you about it later on in this hour. The British say the Iraqis fired on fleeing civilians outside the city.

Later, U.S. Central Command reported an air strike destroyed a building in Basra where 200 Iraqi militiamen were believed to be meeting.

Three U.S. Marine infantry battalions now occupy the northern and the southern parts of Nasiriya. A lot of activity there over the last several days. We're going to have a live report from that region very shortly. They say they are very close to the -- securing the city. We'll try to find out from our own Art Harris.

Well, the most tally of casualties shows 51 members of coalition forces have been killed since the wear started. CNN's figures show 28 U.S. service members dead, 20 of them by hostile fire. The British have lost 23. At least four, possibly five killed by the enemy.

The Iraqi government has released no figures on military losses. Iraq's health minister reports 580 civilians dead. We have no way to verify that.

Bob Franken about 24 hours ago or so went to a new air base in southern Iraq, and it has been -- being set up very quickly over the last 24 hours or so. Let's check in with Bob, see the latest developments.

Bob, what's it look like where you are now?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, since we got here by convoy, there has been a steady of stream of airplane traffic coming in here, cargo planes, C-130s, and the like, making preparations for the beginning of this as an operating U.S. and coalition force air base.

It's, of course, 150 miles into Iraq, 150 miles closer to the combat than it's home base, and it's going to be a place where the A- 10s, the dreaded A-10s can come and refuel. There may be some decisions down the road about actually basing them here.

It is also a place where search-and-rescue operations can be undertaken.

In fact, there already have been some that are underway, but the main story right now is the very quick buildup. As you pointed out, Anderson, 24 hours ago, this was just your standard former Iraq air base that hadn't been in use for 10 years.

But now, overnight, it is emerging into this U.S. operation. They haven't had time yet to take down the various pictures of Saddam Hussein, but they've taken down just about everything else Iraq and replaced it with everything else United States. They have also used this as a way station, a way station for our ground troops coming through. They land here, and then they're trucked to their various destinations.

Within eyesight of here are some combat areas. Nasiriya is something you can see. For instance, it is not far away at all. In this particular region, just about all of the combat areas in South Central Iraq are areas that are almost visible or, if not visible, certainly within easy reach from here.

However, they believe that the air base is secure. They have even had tunnels that they've checked out here, and they've determined that the tunnels, in fact, are now empty, that they're not going to be a threat, and they're certain enough about this, Anderson, that they're going to begin the heavy traffic through here as soon as they get the operation completely up and running -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Bob, you said that's mainly going to be for the A- 10 Warthog. That's an aircraft used for close air support. Are they anticipating a lot of -- I mean, are they anticipating that more and more of their missions are going to be for close air support?

We've been seeing that shift from the early days in the campaign where so much of the air strikes were focused on command and control structures. Are they now talking that we're going to see more and more a higher percentage of strikes for supporting troops on the ground?

FRANKEN: Well, both have been going on at the same time. Basically, the planes that hit the command and control centers and the like are everything from the full-scale bombers to the fighter bombers like the F-16 and F/A-18.

The A-10s all along have been used to either prep the battlefield, as you've heard the term, or they're used as the battles are going on. They shoot about 60 rounds per second, somebody told me, a .50-caliber machine gunfire. It is an awesome sight. They can literally shred a tank and can do the same thing to groups of ground troops.

So they are used in close air support for ground operations, while other planes take care of the bombing of the facilities you're describing.

COOPER: Yes, Bob. I remember when Walter Rodgers, who's embedded with the 7th Cavalry, was telling us a couple of days ago that when they cross over that bridge, crossing over the Euphrates for the first time, they called in an A-10 Warthog for some air support.

And when Walter and when the cavalry heard the sound of the A-10 coming in, coming in for that close air support, he described it as jubilation went through the 7th Cavalry troops he was with. So, obviously, a lot of people will be looking to -- forward to when that airfield gets up and running.

Thanks very much, Bob. We'll check in with you in a little while. Let's go to Daryn Kagan. There's been a lot of developments in Kuwait City in the last 24 hours. Daryn, how's it look now?

KAGAN: Things are a lot calmer right now than it was about 1:40 this morning, Anderson. A shopping mall will stay open for business today. This is the sight of the damage from the first Iraqi missile to strike Kuwait City in the war. This missile hit in the middle of the night. It slightly injured one person.

Our John Vause has been at the scene and he files this report.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is difficult to know the exact point of impact for this missile, but it is not difficult to see the full force of the blast, the damage which it caused.

We walk out on to this jetty, this pier, which goes out into the Persian Gulf. We can see where the steel girders had been buckled. The pylons have snapped. The railing over there dangling off the side.

Now, when the missile impacted, it sent a shockwave. This shockwave was sent through this mall. This mall one of the biggest and best here in Kuwait City. The force of that shockwave bringing down parts of the ceiling, smashing windows.

Now, inside this mall, only one person, because this missile landed in the early hours of the morning, and we're told that person was hurt, just minor injuries, though, because this mall was empty. A quarter to 2:00 in the morning was when this missile struck.

We are also told that it could have been a Seersucker missile. That because of the circuitry board which was found on the scene and other markings on the outside of the missile, and that means it came in at a very low altitude, which means it was not picked up on radar, and the Patriot missile system, which is in place, to try and intercept these missiles was ineffective.

But we also know that, once again, this Iraqi missile which was launched at Kuwait did not contain chemical or biological agents.

John Vause, CNN, Kuwait City.


KAGAN: Coming out of John's report there, I want to show you some of the pieces that we actually have from the scene. You can get a lot closer to the scene here in Kuwait when things happen than you can in the U.S.

These are actually pieces -- two pieces of the missile, a metal piece here, and then what looks like it was the side of the missile here with some green paint on it, and then this is a piece of tile that actually came off the building at the Sharq Mall.

I think what's going to upset people so much, not just -- besides the fact that, of course, Anderson, this missile landed in the middle of a city, there were no sirens that went off in the middle of the night.

For some reason, there have been a lot of these missile attacks happening about 1:00 in the morning. This one happened again -- when I woke up, I thought, oh, well, you know, here we go again. It's just yet another missile attack.

But, indeed, it was only after the missile had landed that the sirens were sounded, letting people know that danger, in fact, had landed on this city.

COOPER: That is terrifying, Daryn, especially -- I mean we've heard all those air-raid sirens, and then to know there was not an air-raid siren for this one where there was an impact, Daryn, I'm not sure you'll be able to see it.

But we've got a graphic of this missile that's going to show -- show our viewers -- just to give us a sense of what the Silkworm's like. It's an anti-ship missile normally, Chinese made, that seems -- the range, about 60 miles, air or land launch.

And, Daryn, I read a statement from Kuwait's information minister who said that -- sort of, I guess, explaining or trying to explain why there was no air-raid siren. He was explaining that the missile...

KAGAN: Right.

COOPER: ... skims very close to the ground and, I guess, it not picked up by their early warning systems.

KAGAN: Right. That it flies low. And, also, I can add -- which would exactly explain why a siren wouldn't go off. I can tell you, too, that the mood here in Kuwait City in recent days has been somewhat relaxed.

I was out shooting a story yesterday, talking to some Kuwaitis, visiting them in their home. They felt like maybe the first two or three days of the war that it -- this was a dangerous place to be, but the -- most Kuwaitis had returned to their regular return. Kids are even supposed to start going back to school today.

But, generally, the sense, I would think, would definitely change now that this missile has hit and landed in the middle of the city at what is one of the busiest shopping centers. I was at that exact shopping center just a few hours before this missile hit.

It's not just a mall. There's a huge supermarket attached to it, and we were there, replenishing some supplies. To give you an idea of just how busy it is, picture the busiest mall in your town where you can't find a parking space, that -- that was Sharq Mall yesterday afternoon and evening here in Kuwait City.

COOPER: Yes. I read some figure that something like 25,000 people visit that mall every weekend, which is an extraordinary figure, and I guess lucky that this thing hit after closing hours and not many people were there.

All right, Daryn. We're going to...

KAGAN: Yes, the equivalent of what would be...

COOPER: Go ahead.

KAGAN: I was just going to say it's the equivalent of what would be Sunday night because the weekend here is Thursday, Friday. So it probably was the quietest time in the entire week.

COOPER: All right. Some good news, I guess, in that.

Daryn Kagan, we'll come back to you shortly.

Well, the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne began today ferrying troops closer to the front. It was quite a historic day for the Screaming Eagles. It ended with a battle against Iraqi forces. They used Apache Longbow helicopters. They hit targets just a hundred miles southwest of Baghdad.

Ryan Chilcote is embedded with the 101st. He filed this report.


RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A busy night for the 101st Airborne, completing its first deep attack. Using its Apache attack helicopters to go after the Medina Division, the elite Republican Guard Division southwest of Baghdad. The pilots saying they destroyed tanks, APCs, and a lot of other vehicles.

The first mission not without mishap. There was a crash landing just after takeoff. Those two pilots are, however, OK. One of the pilots may have broken a leg. And another crash landing. Upon return, a second helicopter, rolling in brownout conditions.

Both of those helicopters experiencing what are called brownout conditions, meaning the pilots couldn't see the ground because of all the dust flying in the air as they landed. Again, all four of the pilots in those two helicopters all right. One of them may have broken a leg.

The 101st Airborne really opening up a new phase in this war with the helicopter gunships going after targets now on the ground. Ryan Chilcote, CNN, with the 101st Airborne in central Iraq.


COOPER: We're going to be talking a lot more about that, that large-scale movement of troops, really historic movement of troops with the 101st, later on in the program.

Right now, we want to go to northern Iraq where in the last 48 hours or so, we have seen what -- the beginnings, we think, of opening of some sort of a northern front. We saw those Airborne troops parachuting in, opening up an airfield. I want to get an update on that now.

Coalition air strikes continued Friday on Iraqi troops in northern Iraq, and U.S. forces continue to bring in tanks and armored personnel carriers, and that's where Jane Arraf joins us now in northern Iraq.

Jane, what's the latest?

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're on the edge of the Harir airfield, and just in front of us, we were seeing a moment ago that the trails from fighter planes presumably coming back from bombing in the direction of Mosul. Now behind us we are seeing what could become a forward operating base.

Three days ago, this was just an empty airstrip, but that was before that dramatic airdrop that you mentioned of the 173rd Airborne. They said they did that essentially to prove that they could, and now what they're doing is trying to turn this into a base.

We can see behind us one of the transport helicopters used to bring in troops and some vehicles. There are tents behind us as well, containers. Everything they need, they say, to make this place more livable, and it certainly can use a lot of that.

When these guys dropped in, they basically dropped into a muddy field. Now they've been -- they've rooted around here to secure the perimeter, and they've been sleeping out on the cold, hard, muddy ground, which had frost on it this morning. We spoke to a few of those guys. One of them, Chris Brown, a specialist from Charlotte, North Carolina -- he's a machine gunner -- told us that no matter how much you're prepared, no matter how much they tell you, you never quite see what you expected to see.


SPC. CHRIS BROWN, 173RD AIRBORNE BRIGADE: Sometimes I get a little nervous. Sometimes yes. I mean not everybody can be prepared for everything, but, you know, I guess I'll find out when the time comes.


ARRAF: Now this, of course, was the alternative to the 62,000 ground troops that have now been diverted to Kuwait, the 4th Infantry. They're on their way to Kuwait, instead of coming through here, through Turkey, instead they have the Airborne Division setting up what officials here say will be a robust force that could potentially go into Mosul and Kirkuk -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jane, just -- I actually expected there to be sort of more activity, especially with the word that, you know, there was going to be this robust force coming in. Are they still saying on the ground that that's going to happen, that things are going to change, and we're going to be seeing a lot of heavy equipment coming in?

ARRAF: We are, but it's clear it's going to take a while. They're still operating under obviously very heavy security, which means that they're doing those transport operations at night.

Now we've been out on this airfield at night, and, in the middle of the night, there are C-130s and C-17s, those really big cargo planes that can actually carry tanks and APCs. So far, they've been bringing in supplies because, essentially, they are landing in the middle of nowhere. It's friendly territory.

They're working in conjunction with the Kurdish militia, and you couldn't expect a warmer welcome from the people. For instance, some of these soldiers have been saying they've been met by kids bringing them flowers.

But, essentially, they've got a lot of work to do to actually make this any sort of base, to pave the ground, as it were, for the heavy equipment and the heavy artillery to come in, but officials here are still saying they expect that to happen. They expect to have what they call a robust force that's prepared for anything -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jane. Yes. Next time I talk to you, I want to find out more about how it has affected both the Kurdish fighters on the ground and just the mood of the people around there, but that -- we'll do that next time. I'll probably talk to you in an hour or so.

Jane Arraf -- thanks very much -- live in northern Iraq.

Let's go back to Kuwait City and Daryn.

KAGAN: Anderson, I want to check on the latest on Baghdad, and that's where Iraqi officials are reporting dozens of deaths and injuries in a residential neighborhood. They say a coalition air strike is to blame for that. U.S. Central Command still is looking into this situation.

Rym Brahimi is following the situation. She is in Amman, Jordan.

Rym, hello.


The information ministry in Baghdad says that 58 people were killed in that marketplace bombing that occurred yesterday in northwestern Baghdad. Now it was -- the information ministry also says that there were many, many injured, and they expect the death toll to rise because of the number of severely wounded people in that marketplace.

People apparently were screaming. A lot of people injured in the hospital. They were taken to hospitals with all their relatives very worried, very anguished. People saying why does the United States hate us so much. A lot of tension there. People saying how can the United States can make such mistakes with the technology they have. A lot of questions around that bombing, as you can imagine.

Now that marketplace that was hit is in a very popular neighborhood, a very poor area of Baghdad as well. And it also seemed to have hit at 6:00 p.m., which is really rush hour. It's when everybody goes shopping, everybody goes to buy what they need at that time of day.

We also understand, Daryn, that, in the night, the information ministry itself was, in fact, hit as well by a missile -- a U.S. missile. Now reporters are trying to check that out and how much damage has been caused. Of course, the information ministry, a very key building, according to U.S. officials.

And I might also remind you about a month ago, before the bombings began, before the U.S.-led attack began over Baghdad, the Pentagon had warned that they considered the information ministry a legitimate military target -- Daryn.

KAGAN: A question for you about this al-Shola Market where this bombing took place and all these civilians, according to the Iraqi government, have lost their lives. Of course, the U.S. government would have us know that everything is not as it would appear to be when you just look at it face on in Baghdad, but is this market, as you know it, near any other government building or important installations, Brahimi?

BRAHIMI: Well, there are questions that the market in question may have been next to some military -- either military installations or places where anti-aircraft artillery may have been placed, but that's hardly surprising. If you go through Baghdad, there are a lot of buildings where you would -- might lift your head and randomly see that there's anti- aircraft on the top of that building that looks like quite a normal building.

Sometimes it means there's some maybe Baath Party office in that building, and so there's anti-aircraft on it to protect it. It's not very uncommon to see anti-aircraft dispersed around the City of Baghdad.

But, of course, again, this is just speculating. We're not sure as yet what it was that the missile was targeting at that point.

The ministry of information is, of course, more of a clear target and has been declared as a legitimate target to the -- by the Pentagon itself, but, of course, the other issue with the minister of information is that it hosts hundreds of government employees.

And it also hosts a lot of the international media, local (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a lot of international media, and, also, international journalists that have been working there for a long, long time and have their officers there, even if before the bombing began, a lot of them had actually emptied their offices out of concern that this might happen -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And so that's a building you're quite familiar with from all your days in Baghdad.

Rym Brahimi right now in Amman, Jordan.

Thank you.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Daryn, we go from Baghdad to what is going on near Basra. British troops continue to fight Iraqi Fedayeen fighters in and around the southern Iraq city of Basra. Take a look at this.

Iraqi paramilitary troops have pulled back into the city and are in positions around civilians centers. We've just gotten word recently that, apparently, the U.S. -- this is according to Central Command. U.S. aircraft attacked and destroyed a two-story building in Basra.

Now what is significant about this -- it was believed that about 200 Iraqi militiamen were meeting inside. This occurred Friday in Iraq -- in Basra.

The men inside described as Iraqi regime terror squad members. CENTCOM claims that a Christian church about 300 yards away from this building was undamaged, and, apparently, the reason -- the reason it was undamaged was that these two -- these munitions, these bombs had delayed fuses.

So they were actually able to -- they were precision-guided, actually able to enter the building and explode once inside, thereby limiting the amount of damage to the surrounding buildings. This all according to CENTCOM. So that could be significant.

Again, 200 Iraqi militiamen meeting in this building hit by coalition aircraft, according to Central Command.

And while the fighting around Basra does continue, the citizens of the second largest city are trying to move to safety.

Juliette Bremner has more.


JULIETTE BREMNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Too scared to stay. Families from Basra brave the crossing out of the city despite the fact it had been hit by mortars just hours earlier.

Shortly after dawn, a group of around 300 refugees emerged from behind the burning oil holes that marked the boundary of Basra towards this British-held bridge. Officers watched in horror as a barrage of mortars exploded around them, almost certainly launched from paramilitaries who still control the fort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My troops were deployed forward as they have been for some time, again, checking and screening the transit of people through, and, when they come under indirect fire from what we assessed to have been mortar fire, clearly, they were -- there were civilians in the area, too, and they dispersed very quickly. The rounds were landing relatively close to where they were.

BREMNER: This time, no one was killed, but security checks on all those leaving or entering having moved on to an even higher level.

(on camera): The attack on the convoy of refugees this morning only serves to underline the worst fears of British troops, that people are being held against their will in Basra and the paramilitaries will use the most violent means possible to prevent them leaving.

(voice-over): Despite the British conviction that the refugees were deliberately targeted, it is possible that they were simply caught up in an attack on the front line.

But the teams securing the bridge have no doubt that irregular fighters are trying to slip in and out of Basra. Suspects are rounded up and escorted back to their base for interrogation.

The overall commander of the Desert Rats accuse the paramilitaries of appalling brutality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been hearing stories of this kind of brutality, but this is the first occasion on which we've actually witnessed it.

BREMNER: So why wasn't he intervening to end the suffering?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm weighing up the risk to my own forces. I'm weighing up the risk to the civilian -- the civilians who are being -- being held hostage effectively in Basra.

BREMNER: For those risking this dangerous journey, the delay could be deadly. A bleak choice between running out of food or braving the crossfire.

Juliette Bremner, near Basra.


COOPER: We are going to have more on the situation in Basra, the battle for Basra, coming up in our next hour.

We're going to go to a short break. When we come back, we're going to go live to Washington for an update -- for the latest from the Bush administration.

Be right back.



COOPER: Images of a war.

Let's go to Washington now, check in with Chris Burns for the latest.

What's going on, Chris? Busy day for President Bush.


Before the president left for Camp David for the weekend, he did meet with veterans organizations, tapping them for their support in the war effort.

The president making comments, being under fire, at least in the media and by some military analysts that the war plan is not going according to plan, that it's getting bogged down.

Those kind of headlines, as he's dealing with that, as he's meeting with the veterans. So he shrugged off that criticism and said that the plan is going according to plan and that victory is certain.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The regime that once terrorized all of Iraq now controls a small portion of that country. Coalition troops continue their steady advance and are drawing near to Baghdad. We're inflicting severe damage on enemy forces.


BURNS: Well, what about some of those headlines like a commander in the field saying that they had not war-gamed for what they experienced? Well, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman coming back and saying well the president himself had warned for months, in fact as early as October, that it could be a difficult fight. Ari Fleischer saying himself that days before the war he, himself said it could also be a very, very difficult fight. Here are his words.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has faith in the plan. He believes that the plan is on track. It is on progress. It is working. Saddam Hussein will be disarmed and the president, as I made repeatedly clear on any number of occasions, is not going to sit in the White House as a play-by-play commentator on every battle and every day's mission.


BURNS: The president himself is going to be getting some play- by-play in the morning. He's going to be teleconferencing to get a defense update as well as an intelligence update so he will not be out of touch as he's over at the Camp David retreat for the weekend - Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Chris, as they pointed out last weekend, Camp David is a Marine-run facility, so they do have all the latest technology for the president to keep in touch. Chris Burns live in Washington, thanks, check in with you shortly.

We're going to go to a short break. We'll be right back.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City. Let's go ahead and check the latest headlines, beginning with an Iraqi missile which landed right here in Kuwait City overnight, the first to do so since the war began.

There was some damage to a shopping mall in the city center just one mile from the Kuwaiti (UNINTELLIGIBLE) residence. The missile was identified as a Chinese-made surface-to-surface missile. It flies low to the ground and there were no warning signs before the missile hit.

Explosions rocked Baghdad again today. Iraq's information ministry was among the targets of the latest round of bombings. Arab media reporting another explosion in a marketplace has killed 52 people. Iraqi officials blame coalition air strikes but U.S. officials say they can not confirm what hit the area.

U.S. warplanes bombed a building in Basra where U.S. Central Command says about 200 members of the Iraqi militia were meeting. Central Command says the F-15E fighter planes destroyed their target.

Coalition strikes targeted a hospital in Rutbah in western Iraq. Intelligence indicated that the hospital had been taken over by Baath Party officials. Coalition sources say that Saddam Hussein loyalists have been hiding in hospitals and also in schools.

Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq is eroding, that is according to U.S. officials. General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says 35 to 40 percent of Iraq is no longer under the control of the Iraqi leader.

The State Department has issued a health warning to Americans planning to travel to Asia. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Hanoi were on the list of danger zones for a mystery illness that has killed more than 50 people worldwide. The cause of the illness which they are calling SARS is still unknown.

For more now we toss it back to Anderson in Atlanta.

COOPER: We're continuing our look at what is going on on the battlefields all over Iraq this morning. The Screaming Eagles, the 101st Airborne, attacked deep inside Iraq on Friday. The U.S. Army's 101st used dozens of helicopters to hit an Iraqi armored brigade about 100 miles southwest of Baghdad. We're going to have more on that shortly.

And, the U.S. Marines are reportedly very close to taking control of the key southern city of Nasiriya, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the war so far.

Humanitarian aid finally reached the port city of Umm Qasr and coalition forces have taken control of an Iraqi air base in the southeast which could take as much as 150 miles off of trips to military targets. Our Bob Franken is there. He's been bringing us stories about that.

But, British troops are still fighting around Basra where there are reports that Iraqi militiamen have fired on citizens who are trying to flee. It is a very difficult situation there to say the least.

Now, just hours ago, U.S. Marines launched a daytime - a daybreak, I should say, attack on Iraqi positions in Nasiriya using Cobra helicopters, gun ships, tanks, other firepower. The Marines managed to destroy a number of Iraqi tanks.

We're going to get an update right now. Our Art Harris is embedded with the 2nd Marines Task Force Tarowa (ph). He joins us on the phone from the outskirts of Nasiriya. Art, what's the latest where you are?


COOPER: All right, we are obviously having trouble with Art's cell phone or satellite phone I should say. You know we're going to try to reestablish contact with him because the battle in Nasiriya which has been going on and off for several days now has been extraordinary in its intensity at time.

Our own Art Harris has been reporting on it over the last several days. There was also an article in "The New York Times" on Friday which painted a very alarming portrait of some of the give and the take, the battles going on there. Apparently the Marines hold both the north and the south part of the city but there is apparently still activity, a lot of activity going on in between both of their positions. We're going to get more on that.

Coalition forces entering Nasiriya also made a very chilling discovery in a hospital that had been taken over by Iraqi fighters. You might have heard this story but you probably haven't seen this report. Take a look. James Mates explains.


JAMES MATES, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In more peaceful times this was a hospital but with a strategic position at the southern entrance of Nasiriya it has been taken over by the Iraqi Army. A tank was parked on the grounds. Military equipment and posters lined the corridors. There was evidence that it had become a local command center.

But now in the hands of U.S. Marines, the most disturbing discovery was that troops here had been issued with the means to fight a chemical or biological war. In one storeroom alone, enough protective gear to equip many hundreds of troops.

(on camera): This is clearly the central storeroom for their chemical and biological warfare equipment, carrying bags here with gas masks. The masks from these boxes have already been issued. Right here, the over boots that go with chemical and biological protection suits, and in this box canisters attached to gas masks, these ones absolutely brand new and ready for issue.

Also here, the auto injecting antidote to nerve agents appear to have also been issued to their troops. There is little doubt from looking in this room that the troops who were operating from this command center were at the very least prepared to be fighting in a chemical or biological environment.

(voice-over): And for the Marines here, at least, that leads to only one conclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not use biological or chemical warfare. The fact that they have it here in a hospital and ready to pass out, who knows, you know.

MATES: Does it worry you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit because they're a little bit better equipped than what I thought they were going to be.

MATES: Better prepared than they thought they were going to be, that is something that will worry commanders right across this battlefield.

James Mates, ITV News, Nasiriya.


KAGAN: Much of the specific information that we're getting about what is happening in the war in Iraq comes through U.S. Central Command. That is located in Doha, Qatar. Our Tom Mintier is at CENTCOM, as they call that, and joins us now from there -- Tom, hello.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn. A lot of information indeed does come from here, not only at the afternoon briefings but in the morning as well.

Joining us now is Ground Captain Al Lockwood, the British spokesman. Captain Lockwood, there's just a report that has crossed on Reuters wire saying that four British soldiers were reportedly kidnapped in and around Basra, this coming from apparently a field commander, a British field commander in that area. Do you have any information on these four soldiers?

GROUND CAPT. AL LOCKWOOD, BRITISH CENTCOM SPOKESMAN: No, I have no information whatsoever, Tom, and certainly I will investigate it for you.

MINTIER: There is talk of a pause in this campaign of a slowdown to allow forces to be rearmed, re-supplied, re-fed, refueled. Is there a built-in or a planned pause to allow re-supply to take place?

LOCKWOOD: These reports of a pause I've only heard on open sources and I noted that the Pentagon had just denied that there is a pause. What happens in any campaign is that there will be a period of time where before we commit our troops forward we will shape the battle space, ensure that the troops are in the same place, sorry in the correct place for the next part of the campaign, and get things on our side so that we have the advantage when we next encounter the enemy.

MINTIER: But is there an abatement of attacks, air attacks, armored attacks? Does the war stop to allow this?

LOCKWOOD: Certainly not. We're continuing with any ground contacts we have. More importantly we're using the air battle now to shape that battle space and battlefield for when we move towards our next objective.

MINTIER: There was another incident of friendly fire, what they call blue-on-blue, where apparently an American aircraft targeted several armored vehicles from the British military.

LOCKWOOD: We're still investigating. Apparently, our troops were in contact with Iraqi forces. They were to the north of Basra. There was fire coming from various sources at this stage but tragically it appears that some friendly fire killed one of our soldiers and wounded five others.

MINTIER: Captain Lockwood, thank you very much.

That blue-on-blue, they try to avoid that. They have both visual and electronic means to identify these forces down on the ground, so inadvertently aircraft or artillery positions don't accidentally fire on them but it's something we've seen several failures in the system of.

It's being investigated by both sides. We've seen Patriot missiles taking out British aircraft and U.S. aircraft taking out Patriot missile batteries when they turned on their radar. So, blue- on-blue or friendly fire, as in most campaigns, is definitely a problem here.

Later this afternoon we expect a briefing here at CENTCOM where many of these questions can be put to U.S. officials - Daryn.

KAGAN: I'm sure you'll be bringing that briefing live to our viewers. Tom, thank you so much.

Also, I'll be able to get some more information perhaps. A couple hours from now I'll be talking with Captain John Fines (ph). He's a spokesman for the Royal Air Force, more on the incident involving the British soldiers later on. Right now back to Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Daryn thanks very much.

We're going to try to make contact again with our Art Harris, who is somewhere near Nasiriya with the U.S. Marines there. There have been battles over the last several days. It is very tense. Apparently, the Marines control the north and the south of the city thus far. Let's get the latest now from Art. Art, what's going on?

HARRIS: Anderson, early this morning about 6:00 a.m. there was heavy mortar fire and artillery over our heads into the city and into outposts of Iraqi positions. Right now the infantry Marines are moving through the city and as one described it me has found a treasure trove of information and intelligence.

They have apparently captured a senior warrant officer with the Iraqi military, captured a command post, and we have also seen the Iraqis in the city resorting to the deceptive tactics that have been used and that is using human shields.

A number of them have been reported carrying AK-47s with women and children in front of them. The Marines have been very careful not to fire upon those and have moved on to other targets.

Right now, a light armored reconnaissance unit is working with infantry to clear the city, to move through it methodically and is reporting very good progress - Anderson.

COOPER: Art, there's a lot I want to ask you about, about what is going on there. As you know when we get our embedded correspondents sometimes we just got to go to them because we have them for a short amount of time.

I'm going to have to cut away from you, Art. I hope to come back to you sometime in the next half hour or so because there's a lot I want to talk to you about what is going on in Nasiriya, very serious situation there.


COOPER: Art thanks very much for now. I want to go to where our own Jason Bellini is. He is also traveling with a unit of Marines. You won't be seeing Jason in this report. The technology that we have that you have seen of the last ten days or so on the battlefield, it has allowed some extraordinary reporting from our correspondents.

It also occasionally allows for some extraordinary moments and we hope what you are about to see is one of those. You're about to meet a man by the name of Sergeant Craig Martin. He is on our videophone. He's with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in southern Iraq.

Sergeant Martin, can you hear me?


COOPER: How are you doing sergeant?

CRAIG MARTIN: Pretty good, how are you?

COOPER: Well, I'm doing fine but I'm sitting back here in a comfy chair, so. Listen, I know it's been a while, a long time since you've been able to talk to your wife, Kaycee Martin, and I believe she is on the line. Kaycee, are you there?


COOPER: Okay, Kaycee feel free to say hi to your husband.


CRAIG MARTIN: I love you.

KAYCEE MARTIN: I love you too. Make sure you're being careful.

CRAIG MARTIN: How are you doing? I'm always careful baby.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Everyone says they love you.

CRAIG MARTIN: How is the baby doing?

KAYCEE MARTIN: Kaylee (ph) is doing OK.

CRAIG MARTIN: I love them too.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Kaylee is doing OK and the baby is very active, moving all over, especially right now.

CRAIG MARTIN: OK, good. Well, you keep up the good work and so will we.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Yes, make sure you're safe and you keep up the good work.

CRAIG MARTIN: I will. I want everybody to know that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons company 2-1, everybody is OK to all the families out there, all right. The rest of the 15th is doing good as well.

COOPER: Kaycee if I could ask you, are you in touch with a lot of the other military wives who are serving with your husband?

KAYCEE MARTIN: Actually, I'm not in touch with as many that are with the 15th now. It's just pretty much my neighbors, people that he served with before. I'm in touch with them a lot more.

COOPER: And you are eight months pregnant I believe. How has this been for you?

KAYCEE MARTIN: It's been difficult. It's hard without him. I'm doing OK, but it would be much better if he was home with me.

COOPER: If I could just ask, and you know I don't want to pry so anytime I ask something you don't want to say just tell me to shut up. But, what is it like for you watching all this coverage, I mean watching you know the access, the pictures we are seeing are really historic in what we are able to see? Does it make it more difficult? Does it make it easier?

KAYCEE MARTIN: It's very difficult. It's hard. The whole time you're just sitting there. I'm trying to catch a glimpse just to see if maybe one of the people on TV is him. But, you know, he tells me don't watch. Don't watch. You know it's going to be difficult but like I said it's just too hard. I want to be able to see just to make sure that he's OK, just catch a glimpse of him.

COOPER: How does he look to you right now?

KAYCEE MARTIN: He looks all right but dirty.

CRAIG MARTIN: I lost my tooth.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Oh, beautiful. Thanks. Thanks for showing me.

COOPER: How did you lose your tooth?


COOPER: Can I ask how did you lose your tooth?

CRAIG MARTIN: When we came across the bridge, the enemy launched some 155 artillery rounds at us. It came pretty close and the concussion knocked my tooth out.


CRAIG MARTIN: Yes. It was fun though. We're all right.

KAYCEE MARTIN: It doesn't sound like you're being too careful.

COOPER: Sergeant Martin, I don't know if you can see your wife sort of shaking her head there.

CRAIG MARTIN: Careful as I can be. It's all good. COOPER: Sergeant Martin, is there anything else.

CRAIG MARTIN: I love you.

COOPER: Is there anything else you would like to say either to your wife or to all the people who are watching this? I know this is awkward, you know, doing this on TV and I hate to put you in this position but feel free.

CRAIG MARTIN: Yes. I've got a couple things real quick. To my old man, this is not a distraction. To my wife, we'll be home soon and I love you. That's all I got to say.

COOPER: Well, that says a lot. Kaycee, anything else you want to say?

KAYCEE MARTIN: I love you very much. I miss you very much. Everyone is praying for you. I just want you to come home safe and soon so you could see our new baby.

CRAIG MARTIN: One more thing, you look really beautiful right now.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Thanks. I'd like to say the same to you.

CRAIG MARTIN: It's stylish. Don't worry we'll take it home.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Well, just come home safe.

CRAIG MARTIN: Without a doubt.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Well, just come home soon.

CRAIG MARTIN: I'll try baby.

COOPER: All right, Kaycee Martin, Sergeant Craig Martin, appreciate both of you coming in and I'm glad you were able to speak to each other.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: All right, Sergeant Martin good luck to you.

CRAIG MARTIN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

KAYCEE MARTIN: Be careful.

CRAIG MARTIN: Thank you. I will babe.

COOPER: And we'll be right back.


KAGAN: An underlying theme for this war for a lot of people has to do with oil. To find out more about that, we've invited Chip Cummins, he is a "Wall Street Journal" reporter whose beat is exactly that, the oil industry. Thanks for joining us here in Kuwait City.


KAGAN: First, let's go ahead and talk oil fires.


KAGAN: Oil well fires.


KAGAN: In terms of how bad it could have been so far, it appears so far so good. It could have been a lot worse.

CUMMINS: Yes, the Pentagon is pleasantly surprised so far. The Iraqis appear to have set about nine oil well fires in the southern fields, which U.S. and U.K. forces now have firm control of.

KAGAN: How bad could that have been?

CUMMINS: Well, a lot of military planners are expecting a repeat of the inferno that we saw in Kuwait in 1991 where Iraqi troops set 700 wells on fire. There was roughly 600 to 1,000 wells in the south of Iraq and the Iraqis had the ability. They had control of those fields. They could have done a whole lot worse than they did.

KAGAN: But all the danger is not over. There's still a lot in the north.

CUMMINS: Absolutely, and also in the south. I mean right now we have a team of military ordinance experts and private contractors going through, going to each one of those wells, again 600 to 1,000 just in the south, checking for booby traps, checking for explosives, checking for corrosion and maintenance problems.

In addition to that, there's pumping stations, pipelines, and processing plants that they have to comb through so the oil is shut off now in the south. It's going to take at least weeks, possibly, probably months before oil is flowing again in the south.

KAGAN: And that's key is for the oil to flow because that's what's going to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq.

CUMMINS: Absolutely. The Pentagon is counting on two things. One, the political good will of restarting the Iraqi oil infrastructure, getting those pumps, getting the oil out to world markets and getting the money back in for the Iraqi people.

And number two, it's very important to keep that two million barrels of Iraqi oil that was pumped before hostilities to world markets each day, keep it going.

KAGAN: Keep the prices at a decent level.

CUMMINS: Yes, absolutely.

KAGAN: Now, just by the nature of your job, you live oil. You know more about oil than probably some days you even want.

CUMMINS: That's a scary thought but yes.

KAGAN: Than some days you want to. What do you say to the people who believe that this war is all about oil?

CUMMINS: It is if you look at it, it's a fairly naive argument because there's so - there's a lot easier ways to get at Iraqi oil than spending billions of dollars risking American lives and risking the political - the political catastrophe that this administration has risked.

I mean things could go very wrong here and I think the Bush administration realizes that there's more at stake here than oil, and if it was just about oil, there's easier ways to do it.

KAGAN: Well, as we alluded to there's a lot more about this story including oil about what can happen, what has happened.


KAGAN: So, you're going to have to come back and visit with us again. OK?

CUMMINS: I'll do that. OK.

KAGAN: Chip Cummins from the "Wall Street Journal." He's the guy to talk to if you want to know about the oil business, especially here in the Middle East. We're going to take a break. We'll be back here in Kuwait City. Anderson will be back in Atlanta after this.

Oh, actually no. Anderson, toss it back to you.

COOPER: OK. Yes, Daryn, why don't we check in right now with Kathleen Koch who I believe is at the Pentagon for all the latest activity there. Kathleen, what do you got for us?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know if there was ever a honeymoon between the U.S. military and the media I think one can safely say that it ended here today. Some very tough, very pointed questioning at the Pentagon briefing and much of it focused on whether or not this war is going according to plan.

Now, that was prompted by a statement made in the region by Lieutenant General William Wallace, who is commander of the U.S. ground forces in Iraq who said that first of all the war looks like it will go on longer than expected. And then he threw in the quote, "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against."

Of course, everyone says well Pentagon what's your reaction to this? And, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers called the Pentagon's battle plan brilliant and he said that while it is constantly being adapted to meet the changing situation on the ground that things are going as anticipated. Now, of course, not anticipated is intervention from neighboring countries. The Pentagon today accusing nearby Syria of shipping in vital military equipment including night vision goggles into Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also issued a warning to nearby Iran.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The entrance into Iraq by military forces, intelligence personnel, or proxies, not under the direct operational control of General Franks will be taken as a potential threat to coalition forces. This includes the Badr Corps, the military wing of the Supreme Council on Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The Badr Corps is trained, equipped, and directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and we will hold the Iranian government responsible for their actions and will view Badr Corps activity inside Iraq as unhelpful. Armed Badr Corps members found in Iraq will have to be treated as combatants.


KOCH: And here in Washington, the first wounded from the Iraq conflict arrived back here in the United States for treatment. It was four soldiers. They were admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment. Two of them were carried in on stretchers. Two of them walked in. Doctors say that they are being evaluated tonight but that they do appear to be in good spirits.

And, Anderson, some breaking news reported a little earlier this evening but it is the latest news in that a couple of F-15Es took on what the Pentagon described as an emerging target in the city of Basra and this was a two-story building where the Pentagon had information that some 200 Fedayeen fighters, these paramilitary death squads were meeting.

The Pentagon says that the fighter bombers used laser-guided munitions with delayed fused, which enabled the bombs to penetrate the building deeply before exploding and thereby reducing any kind of damage to nearby buildings. One of them in particular the Al Basra Christian Church just 300 yards away apparently was unharmed - Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Kathleen. It is perhaps a very significant development in Basra because as you and I both know those irregular fighters withdrew back into the city and have been causing so much problem according to British officials. They've been firing on civilians who are trying to leave the city.

Has there been any damage assessment done to your knowledge about how successful the attack was? I mean we know there were some 200 fighters believed to be in the building. Have there been any other?

KOCH: No, Anderson, and that sort of thing does take a little bit of time. The attack only occurring a few hours ago so we're waiting to get that assessment. But you can see this is going to be something we'll be seeing in the days to come.

Increasingly the military zeroing in on these paramilitary death squads that they really believe are doing a great deal of harm to the citizenry in these critical cities of Iraq and really preventing them from fleeing if they choose, of forcing some of the men to fight against their will and they believe if they can break these squads that then the U.S. military can advance much more freely throughout the country.

COOPER: All right, Kathleen Koch thanks very much, live at the Pentagon.

We're going to take a short break. Our coverage of the war on Iraq continues.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.