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Missile Striking Mall Was Chinese Seersucker

Aired March 29, 2003 - 04:30   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look at some of the headlines happening this hour, beginning with authorities in Kuwait who say that the missile that rocked Kuwait City was a Chinese-made Seersucker missile. It struck a popular shopping mall overnight, injuring one person. It's the first time the city has been hit since the war began.
Baghdad has been pounded for the eighth night in a row. The Iraqi Information Ministry building was struck by a huge blast overnight. Meanwhile, Iraqi hospital officials say 52 civilians were killed in an airstrike on a residential neighborhood earlier in the day. The U.S. says that strike cannot be confirmed until a battle assessment is completed.

In Southern Iraq, U.S. Marines launched a daybreak attack against Iraqi resistance in the city of Nasiriya. Marines in the area have been conducting search-and-destroy missions in an ongoing effort to secure that city. About 2,000 more Marines have arrived in Kuwait to support the U.S. forces already in Iraq. The Marines are from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, officials say the unit has the ability to rapidly organize for combat operations in almost any environment.

According to the latest figures compiled by CNN, 52 coalition servicemembers have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 21 are unaccounted for, and seven are prisoners of war. The Iraqi government has not released information on their military losses.

Four American soldiers wounded in the war are being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington this morning. They returned to the U.S. yesterday and are said to be in fair to satisfactory condition.

We have reporters throughout the warzone to keep you informed. Coming up in the next hour, some say that President Bush has underestimated the resolve of Iraqi troops, others say that is not the case. We'll have a look at that debate just ahead.

Plus, politicians of today talk about what they faced on the battlefields of history. They're going to share their emotions of having a license to kill. Plus, love and war: A marine talking from his heart to his pregnant wife back home. Their touching story will touch your heart.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning from Atlanta. I'm Anderson Cooper at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Thanks for joining us. My colleague, Daryn Kagan, live in Kuwait City. A lot going on, Daryn, at this hour. KAGAN: Yes, absolutely. I understand that as we're starting off this half-hour, Anderson, that we're receiving pictures from Rammstein Airbase in Germany, the sight of more injured soldiers being brought their for treatment from the battlefields of Iraq.

COOPER: That's right, we are looking at those live pictures at the airbase in Germany. We're not sure if anyone has been offloaded from the cargo plane yet, the pictures are sort of unclear. We're seeing an ambulance -- I know, Daryn, you can't see the pictures -- we're seeing an ambulance waiting for these wounded to be offloaded.

We also, just moments ago, got a report started with the Associated Press and confirmed by Tom Mintier at CENTCOM that there has been a suicide bombing in Najaf. Five Americans, according the the Associated press, from the U.S. military officer, five Americans killed in that suicide bombing. Perhaps not a huge surprise to military planners, given all that they had seen in the last nine or ten days or so, but nevertheless, this is the first report of this kind of an attack we have received. Let's go, right now, away from these pictures that we're showing you to go to Bob Franken, who is standing by in an airbase in Southeastern Iraq. An airbase important both as a forward position base for close air support, also as a possible base for POWs who are going to be taken eventually to that base.

Bob, what's the latest where you are?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They will be taking the POWs -- they have been taken to this base, we've seen some of them. They are immediately removed, and they're taken to points that we can't specify right now. We can tell you that there is, under construction, about 30 miles to the South, a camp that could be a permanent spot for them. Permanent as the war would allow. But it is one that is also in question, because it is fairly close to the battles, which could be a violation of the Geneva Convention. We are very close to various battle areas, except that the military has decided that security is sufficient to make this airfield a very, very important part -- a vital part, to use the word of the Wing Commander -- in the effort. It will be, as you pointed out, a staging area for many of the ground support missions, particularly of the A-10s.

Now, yesterday, when we arrived, there was virtually nothing here. By today, after load after load of equipment has come in both by convoy and by C-130. It is beginning to be a bustling airport. It is one that was left by the Iraqis ten years ago, part of the no-fly zone. And it hasn't been used as an airport. What is interesting is that behind me you can see a runway that is, A, in good shape; and, B, very long. Somebody estimated as much as 10,000 feet. That means that just about any kind of plane ultimately will be able to fly in here, once all the other facilities are in fact, such things as refueling, maintenance and all of that. There is a big effort to get that in, a big effort to get the A-10s operating from here, because, Anderson, as you know, this airbase, although we can't say exactly where it is, we can say that it's 150 miles closer to just about all of the action right now then its home base, which is just a little bit north of Kuwait City. So this is where the airbase is going to be. A forward airbase. Right now, the people who are involved in getting the A-10s up and running are getting ready for the final preparations so the first ones can arrive, and immediately go into action -- Anderson.

COOPER: Bob, I believe you reported earlier that military personnel right now are building up some berms to actually separate the air operations part of this base from what will eventually be a place for POWs. Is that correct?

FRANKEN: Actually, I'm talking about two different locations. This airport is one that's about 30 miles north of the one where the POWs are going to be set up. It's all along the same road. That one will be called Camp Booka (ph). And yes, you're right, they are building up berms there. The berms will be to not only keep them separated, but to not allow the POWs any sight of the operations of the camp. It's a fairly obvious security measure. It's under construction now, there's a lot of activity going on there. And then, separate from here, is the air operation which is being established at this forward airbase.

COOPER: Alright, Bob Franken, thanks very much. We're going to go now to Daryn Kagan, who, again, is in Kuwait City. Daryn?

KAGAN: Anderson, we want to talk about what happened here overnight. Almost coming up on exactly 11 hours ago, a missile, an Iraqi fired missile hit the city. It's about the thirteenth missile that the Iraqis have fired on Kuwait and Kuwait City since this war began about a week and a half ago. This time, though, the missile hit. And it didn't just hit, it hit a central part of town, what they call the Shark Mall. One of the two main shopping malls here in Kuwait City.

Again, about 1:40 a.m. in the morning, they are saying that it's a Chinese Seersucker missile. It hit an area along the waterway right in front of the mall and skidded in, causing some amount of damage. Because of the time of day this was -- or time of night, rather, 1:40 in the morning -- not a lot of people there, only one person injured in this attack. We actually have some pieces of the missile and the building that we can show you here, to kind of give you a feel what it was like.

Two chunks of metal here. This, from the side of the missile, which you can see was painted green. And then this tile, this is a piece of tile that was blow off the side of the mall. The significance of this, as the Iraqis have been firing missiles at Kuwait: first of all, it's the first time they've been able to hit the center of town, second of all, it's the first time that a missile has been fired that didn't either get shot down by a Patriot missile or didn't land in the desert or the sea.

Also significant: the sirens did not sound in time to give the Kuwaiti people warning -- and those of us here in Kuwait City -- warning that it could be on the way. You could say that "lucky" this time, because of the time of day that it hit and because it wasn't in a very populated area, Anderson, for the time of day that it was. That Shark Mall is usually very, very busy at all times of day, because, as I said, it's one of the main shopping malls. Also, it has attached to it a large supermarket, an additional department store that draws a lot of shoppers from this area.

COOPER: Unbelievable. And Daryn, as you said earlier, some 25,000 people visit that mall on any given weekend. So it is remarkable, I suppose, that it happened when it did. Daryn Kagan thanks -- go ahead...

KAGAN: I was going to add, I shared this earlier, that I was one of them with part of our group here at CNN. We went to restock on some supplies late yesterday afternoon. So I was at that very mall. It looks a lot like any American mall that you would see across the U.S. Not the kind of place you would get the feel that you were in any kind of danger of being hit by a missile.

COOPER: Yes, I imagine it's similar to the mall in Doha, Qatar, where I spent some time a couple months ago. And, saying it's a mall, it's really an epicenter of social life for a lot of people. I imagine it's the same in Kuwait City. Because of the weather there, people are not hanging out outside, the cities are often very stretched out, so the mall really does become a gathering place for people of all ages.

KAGAN: Much like it does back in the states, Anderson.

COOPER: Certainly so. Alright, Daryn Kagan, thanks. We'll check in with you shortly. I just want to update you on what we know thus far.

The big news that happened just a few moments ago, first reported by the Associated Press, saying that a suicide bomber -- this, quoting a U.S. military officer -- a suicide bomber killed five Americans in an attack in Najaf. Now, we're trying to get details on this. I just pulled something off the AP wire. Apparently it was at a checkpoint, a military checkpoint. The attack occurred at a manned checkpoint on the highway north of Najaf. They are also quoting the "Jerusalem Post" on this. Apparently a taxi stopped close to the checkpoint, the driver waited for help, five soldiers approached the car, and it exploded. This according to Captain Andrew Wallace, who told the Associated Press Television this news Saturday. That is, of course, the first time we have heard of such an attack, although perhaps -- and we're going to talk to Art Harris in a moment, who's with the Marines in Nasiriya. We're going to ask him if they have talked about this kind of eventuality.

But this is a conflict where, according to CENTCOM officials and our embedded correspondents on the ground, there have been civilians -- soldiers dressed as civilians. There have been people waving white flags who suddenly break out shooting. There have been hospitals and schools that have been used as headquarters for irregular militia forces. There have been a host of surprises, you might say. This just adds to the list, I suppose.

Let's check in with Art Harris. He is in, or near, Nasiriya, where there has been an extraordinarily fierce fight between U.S. Marines and irregular forces in that city. Read a report earlier, one Marine -- or several Marines, senior Marines -- telling CNN it is the fiercest fighting the Marines have been involved in since the Vietnam War. Quite a remarkable statement to hear that.

Let's check in with Art Harris. Art, what's the latest? You told us before there had been an attack by Marines early this morning. What's the latest?

ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. The Marines have pumped up the volume of firepower patrols against Iraqi positions in Nasiriya, The city on the Euphrates River that dates back to biblical times, but in recent days has seen a lot of fighting and a lot of dying. Last night, C-130 gunships, nicknamed Puff the Magic Dragon from Vietnam days, hit positions on the north side of the city. This morning, what woke me up was a heavy barrage of U.S. Artillery about 6 a.m. Cobras (ph), Harrier jets, I watched Cobra helicopter gunships move in to attack Iraqi positions on the north side of the city.

Marines now occupy the north and the south sides of Nasiriya, and tell me that the bridges remain open and the city is becoming increasingly secure. Infantry units this morning did encounter resistance. Some of the resistance they encounter included Iraqis with AK-47s and human shields. Women and children with them. The Marines held their fire. I'm told by a senior Marine here that they are being very careful not to alienate the civilian population. They don't want to hurt civilians. There have been no Marine casualties from today's fighting. Two Iraqi fighters were wounded, have been MedEvaced for further treatment.

Marines also, Anderson, siezed an Iraqi military compound. What I'm told was discovered was a treasure trove of information here. You just heard an explosion. A treasure trove of intelligence information. Maps. They found chemical gear, munitions, anti- aircraft gun and have called for demolitions experts to blow those up. They have also found that every day, as they move into the city, they are encountering still the same tactics you described, which is military people, military men, in civilian robes.

Holding the 15 evacuees told military intelligence officers that the new tactic of the paramililtaries is to go house to house and recruit any male over 16 by threatening to kill a brother or sister if the family doesn't give them up. This comes from about 50 de-aid (ph) evacuees who were leaving the city yesterday. In one case, the military was told that the Iraqi paramilitary actually executed a nine year-old boy, and they are encountering tactics that have tested the Marines' resolve. This is a fight they did not expect. It is not a familiar fight. And for many Marines (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Vietnam, they're getting a taste of history revisited here. Anderson?

COOPER: Art, very briefly. I don't know if you've been able to hear. We have -- the Associated Press is reporting U.S. Central Command is reporting part of the story, that there was at least an incident. They haven't been giving details. The Associated Press is saying that there has been a suicide bomber that killed five Americans in an attack north of Najaf. I'm just curious to know. The Marines you're with, has their been talk among those Marines about something like this happening? About the possibility of some sort of suicide attack? Some sort of suicide carbombing at a checkpoint?

HARRIS: Yes, they're really aware of this danger, Anderson, and when I was on the Euphrates in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) armored reconnaisance unit, I was guarding a checkpoint there. A constant flow of people and cars and trucks and one of the Staff Sergeants who was not accustomed to this sort of security patrol, ordered his men to start stopping these vehicles far out of range, he hoped, of suicide bombers and check the car for explosives, make the people get out, and in one case, found an Iraqi with an AK-47 with women and children in the car. So this is a very difficult situation to patrol. The Marines in the case, Anderson, were dug into a fighting hole, and those are dug around here, and they are watching for that danger.

COOPER: Alright, Art. You stay safe. We'll check in with you shortly. A lot of conflict going on in and around Nasiriya at this moment. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, a far different story. A reunion of sorts made possible by this amazing technology which we have been witnessing over the last nine or ten days or so. We'll be right back.


KAGAN: Over the last hour or so, we're focussing a lot on the south and the central part of Iraq. Now we want to check in on the northern part of the country, at an airbase in northern Iraq. That is where U.S. forces are setting up shop, building up the Harir airfield, and that is where we find out Jane Arraf -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn. What we're seeing behind us here is an airbase rising up with what was just a few days ago an empty airfield. Now this is the Harir airstrip, and what you're seeing in the distance is a really interesting thing. Those yellow and red flags are the flags of the KDP, the Kurdish faction that controls this territory. They're working in co-operation with the American forces, and it's something that they've waited for a long time.

Now this airbase is rising up. Right now we're seeing transport helicopters, some tents, where there was literally nothing here a couple of days ago, until the 173rd Airborne dropped in, in a very dramatic airdrop. Since then, they've been lifting supplies in, and pretty soon they will be airlifting other things. Now, the public affairs officer for the base -- what's to become a base -- Major Rob Gowan (ph) tells us that the object here is to continue to build up those forces.

MAJ. ROBERT GOWAN, 173 AIRBORNE BRIGADE: ...continuing to set up, make it more liveable, and just improve our fighting positions. We have mortars here, heavy machine guns, that kind of thing. Just making it more robust and more defensible.

ARRAF: And what he means by making it more liveable -- a lot of it is essentially protecting themselves from the weather. A lot of the guys we talked to who parachuted in were saying that they were expecting something quite a lot warmer than this. Desert, in fact. They ended up landing in the freezing mud, and they've been sleeping outdoors.

The other challenge they're facing is communicating with Kurdish people, all who are really quite overjoyed that they're here. There is a bit of a translation problem. They've recently got in more interpreters, and they dropped down with translation cards, which help a little bit, but they say will take a while to see how things go with the local population -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jane, what about the security risks as they go ahead and set this airfield up?

ARRAF: Well they are in pretty friendly territory. This is about as friendly as it gets. We are indeed still in Iraq, but they are obviously taking the normal precautions, including sending the transport planes in at night. Now, if you come here late at night, as we have, in the middle of the night, you can see these big C-17s and C-130s landing. Those huge transport planes. They will at some point be unloading tanks and armored personnel carriers, and they're doing this at night for security. It's been quite moonless, so totally dark the past couple of nights, and they operate with almost no lights. The small ones on the runway, and the personnel are wearing night vision goggles.

As well, they secured the perimeter of the airfield. A lot of what the airborne forces who were dropped in were meant to do first of all. Just make sure that there was security around here. Now, the Kurdish forces say they're providing security as well, and will continue to. What they're really doing is acting as scouts as well as familiarizing their American counterparts with the local terrain, and helping them a little bit with the local population. Daryn?

KAGAN: Jane Arraf in Northern Iraq. Thank you for that report. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Alright, Daryn. Earlier tonight, CNN helped bridge the gap, at least for a moment, between a young Sergeant, Sergeant Craig Martin of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and his young wife, Kaycee Martin in California. They talked by videophone. Listen.


COOPER: You're eight months pregnant, I believe. How has this been for you?

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

COOPER: If I can just ask, and I don't want to pry, so any time I ask anything you don't want to say, just tell me to shut up, but what is it like for you watching all this coverage? Watching the access, the pictures you're seeing are really historic in what we are able to see. Does it make it more difficult or does it make it easier?

K. 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 one of the people on TV is him. But, you know, he tells me "don't watch, don't watch, 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 he's OK. Just catch a glimpse of him.

COOPER: How does he look to you right now?

K. MARTIN: He looks alright, but dirty.


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

COOPER: How'd you lose your tooth...

C. MARTIN: Sorry.

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

C. MARTIN: When we came across the breach, the enemy launched some 155 artillery rounds. It came pretty close and knocked my tooth out.

K. MARTIN: Great.

C. MARTIN: Yes, it was..

K. MARTIN: Doesn't sound like you are being too careful.

C. MARTIN: though. We're alright.

COOPER: I don't know if you see your wife shaking her head.

C. MARTIN: Careful as I can be. It's all good. I love you.

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

C. 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've got to say.

COOPER: That says a lot. Kaycee? Anything else you want to say?

K. MARTIN: I love you very much, I miss you very much, everyone is praying for you and I just want you to come home safe and soon so you can see our new baby.

C. MARTIN: One more thing. You look really beautiful right now.

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

C. MARTIN: It's stylish. Don't worry. We'll take it home, without a doubt.

K. MARTIN: Well just come home soon.

C. MARTIN: I'll try, baby.


COOPER: In addition to the baby the Martins have a three year- old daughter. Sargeant Martin talked about coming home soon. A number of Americans have come home today. And we're going to take you to a live picture at Rammstein Airbase in Germany. You are seeing some casualties who have arrived in Rammstein, where they will be treated at the Landstuhl Medical Center. We've already seen three young Americans who have been treated at that center. They gave a press conference the other day, and we're not sure how many have come off the plane this morning, but they will be headed to the hospital for treatment. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Our coverage continues. A ship full of much needed supplies for Iraqi citizens has arrived in the port city of Umm Qasr. Coalition forces got special help to make sure the ship did not run into any trouble, literally. CNN's Kyra Phillips explains.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm aboard the USS Gunston Hall. The amphibious assault ship out here in the Persian Gulf. Also home to the Navy's Mammal Program. With me now, Paul Robinson. He's a handler of these dolphins. We've got Hefe and K-dog with us.

PAUL ROBINSON, NAVY MAMMAL PROGRAM: This is Hefe, this is K-dog.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about these dolphins. Their number one mission out here, to find mines. Let's talk about bio-sonar and how it works.

ROBINSON: OK. Well, bio-sonar basically, they have this what we refer to as the melon. They can shape their melon, and behind the melon, down in the blowhole, is a set of lips that they can create a high frequency sound, they can shape and project that sound out. When it hits an object such as a mine or a ship, when it bounces back, they'll receive this through their lower jaw, and it will give them a mental image of what it is out there in the water.

PHILLIPS: So when they find a mine, detection and then the marking, how do they mark the mine?

ROBINSON: OK, well the detection basically works where they come up and they'll report to me...


KAGAN: We're going to have to cut into Kyra Phillips' story there. We want to take you to Baghdad. The Ministry of Information, the Iraqi Ministry of Information holding a news conference. Let's listen in:

MOHAMMED SAEED AL SAHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER: ...information to the world. Not only the Ministry of Information. So I think it's very shameful and it's a disgrace on those villains, if they have any feeling of morals. And we will continue to work, and that will never effect us in any way, in any sense.

Second, the second point, now we are encouraging several groups: lawyers, professors of international law, in order to sue those war criminals and those people from different nations and different countries are united to start suing the criminal of war No. 1, George W. Bush. As a war criminal in the war crime tribune or in other shapes. And we have already started.

This suggestion came to us from different -- as I have mentioned -- different legal groups, first in Europe and in some Arab countries. And some of them have been very well organized which gives me really a good feeling that Arab professors of law and Arab specialists in international law, they have already started, some of them, in Lebanon. And I am very glad with that. Really, we are very glad that a movement have already started to sue those war criminals and in particular, this villain, George W. Bush, because he cheats and he really is a war criminal, and should be sued. As for the Prime Minister of Britain, I think maybe this movement will be a little bit easier because he is going to fall before soon I think. And I keep informed the media about the developments in this regard. There are professors of law from Arab countries, from European countries and from Latin American countries.

The third point. The mercenaries, the British mercenaries in particular, stationed in Kuwait. They have repeated recently the allegation that the Iraqi military, members of the Iraqi armed forces, they are disguising themselves by putting on civilian clothes. While once I touched this point, again I would like to inform you and very soon you will start making truths. You can go to whatever governance: Moutana (ph), Najaf, Karbala, and the director general, Mr Uveiya Taim (ph), will arrange that with the local authourities, and you can go there freely. You talk to the people, you see the fronts the way you like it, and you can report freely. What I want to say is that this kind of cheap propaganda by saying that the Iraqi military persons are disguising themselves with civilian clothes, this has nothing to do with facts and the truth.

The truth in Iraq is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, and they are in millions, really. Those crooks who cast those allegations from Kuwait, and British military in particular, they don't know or they want to evade saying the facts. Because there is no Iraqi military disguising themselves. Those are Iraqi civilians fighting against those mercenaries. This is the fact. Our people is fighting those mercenaries and invaders. And they will be eliminated gradually, as we have said. They have invaded our country, they are thrusting towards Baghdad. They are like a boa snake. Now, it's length is more than 500 km, and we are going to cut this snake in pieces. How we are going to cut it, we have already started ambushing them. Killing here, attacking there. Who is doing that? Not the Iraqi armed forces. Only a few of our armed forces. The people is doing this. These crooks in Kuwait want to distort the facts and say that they are military people disguised in civilian clothes, and that's completely untrue.

Those British mercenaries coming to the Gulf and participating with the Americans in invading Iraq only yesterday -- British, by the way, British military, not the Americans, the British. They put fire into the places where we are having the foodstuffs for Basra governance. They destroyed order for the following 75,000 tons of different kinds of foodstuffs. And this is the breakdown of their crime: 1,051 tons of children milk, 3,722 tons of tea, 54,212 tons of sugar, 9,116 tons of cooking oil, 2,926 tons of soaps and detergents, and so on.

The total weight of all those different kinds of supplies for citizens are 75,900 tons. Which is the load of 20,000 trucks. The load of 20,000 trucks.

And those villains talking about bringing humanitarian aid to the Iraqis. Ha! You can compare. You can see what kind of sick dogs we are facing. What kind of really sick dogs coming from the West in order to invade Iraq.

The reports about the casualties during last night up until this morning, because of the barbarian air bombardments on different Iraqi towns and cities starting from Baghdad, are the following: In Baghdad, the casualties, 107 wounded, 68 mortal. That's yesterday Sirusvee Al Shorla (ph) and up to this morning. In Ombargabolnaret, the casualties are 48, and the martyrs are 28. In Babylon, the wounded 22, the martyrs 3. In Karbala, the wounded are 52, the martyrs are 6. In Najaf, the wounded are 122, martyrs, 35. And in Majer (ph), this is also, I think, you will take it with the grief, an ambulance carrying a wounded citizen to take him to the hospital because he needed an operation. That ambulance had been hit by one of those villains with a cluster bomb. The wounded citizen died, martyred. The driver of the ambulance killed, and the person who is taking care of him in order to get to the hospital, martyred.

Congratulations for the superpower. Congratulations for these crooks there. Now they start hitting the ambulances.

Lastly, I give you only synopsis of certain events on the battlefields. The American mercenaries carried out a dropping of some of their forces near the border in Ambar (ph) Governerance. That's near the border between Iraq and Syria, Iraq and Jordan. They will face, in particular, in Ona (ph) -- the call it Ona (ph) it's the border with Syria -- they face those invaders and fought against them, and they left the place, and the Iraqi side had destroyed only two vehicles. In the same governance, and near the center of the governance, that means Ramadan (ph), the Fedayeen Saddam and other armed militias, they succeeded in gunning down one of the unmanned planes, that means Predator. And this unmanned plane, the site where it's destroyed is near Habbaniyah Lake. It's not far from Baghdad. It's about 65 kilometers.

Also, this is a very, very remarkable snap of what happened when they dropped their forces near the border, and Hadeet (ph) is very near the Ona (ph), they bombarded the department of fighting against fire. When fire took place, the people who are fighting fires, they bombared the department of firefighting, and they killed three of the Iraqis in that department, martyered.

Yesterday, the results in more than one place shooting down unmanned planes. I'm talking about Ramadi (ph), and it fell down near Habbaniyah Lake. There is another one in Bar Kuba (ph), in the Biella (ph), on the side of the borders between Iraq and Iran. Also our people have shot down the same kind of plane, a Predator, in an area called Wannam Wais (ph). All of these, we are sending camera crews in order to get the pictures in.

In the air raids, the American mercenaries bombarded a factory south of Najaf for ready-made clothes. They bombarded the factory of ready-made clothes, it's well known in that area. This is a mass destruction mopper (ph) factory.

These are the points I wish to touch on and I'm ready to receive your questions.




SAHAF (through translator): ...that they will stop for 4-6 days. I don't think that's important.

There is news about kidnapping four British soldiers...

In the time of war, this could happen, you can kidnap soldiers from the other side, at any position in the war, whether on the front lines or anywhere. I guarantee you that there are so many operations happening behind the front lines, and we do imprison them, and that doesn't change any of the facts.

I can ask the Health Ministry to tell you more information about that, and they can give you the facts.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to a news conference from the Iraqi Information Ministry, with the Minister Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf making the point that they continue to broadcast. The Ministry has been a severe target of more bombing overnight by the coalition forces. Also, encouraging lawyers and professors, mainly Iraqi lawyers and professors, they want to sue U.S. president as a war criminal. Also, countering the claim by coalition forces that Iraqi forces have been using civilian clothing to try to hide the fact that they are soldiers.

Let's go ahead and bring in Rym Brahimi. She is standing by in Amman, Jordan, having spent a lot of time in Baghdad, to help us comment and get some feel for this news conference. First of all, Rym, did you find it interesting that the minister chose to address his colleagues in English first, before going into Arabic? RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's very rare when that happens indeed. Usually, the first statement is always in Arabic, which is the official language in Iraq. Iraqi officials keen to also address the Arab media and then allow the questions to come from the floor in English or in Arabic. So definitely the desire here to make sure his statements were well-known, were going to go around the world, especially in English-speaking countries. Now, as you mentioned, the points the minister made, of course you mentioned that the Information Ministry had been targeted. That target, we know, from the Pentagon openly said it was considered by the United States administration a legitimate military target.

Well, it was targeted at 1 a.m. and the Minister of Information of course denounced that attack. Other points he made, as you mentioned, again, saying that a group of lawyers, not just Arab lawyers, but also lawyers from other countries are getting together and they are suing, they are preparing an action, a movement to sue the President of the United States, George W. Bush. As for Prime Minister Blair, he said that might not even be necessary because Prime Minister Blair might fall before they are able to get around to that process of suing the British Prime Minister.

He also countered, as you mentioned, the accusation that Iraq is using non-conventional means in battle by having its military disguised as civilians. And he said, actually, no, there are hundreds of thousands, and you will see even millions of Iraqis who are prepared to fight for their country, and that's what you're seeing. It's not military disguised as civilians. That's been something that the Iraqi government has said all along, that the people of Iraq are prepared to fight, that they have weapons. Of course, a lot of people that have weapons and that used to demonstrate ahead of the U.S. attack were people that were most of the time from the Fedayeen Saddam or the ruling Baath Party.

He also gave an account of casualties, I'll just give you very quickly from Baghdad. He said, overnight, 107 wounded and 68 people killed. He called them martyrs. Those people were essentially killed in the bombing of the marketplace. Back to you.

KAGAN: And Rym, told a little bit more about the market place for viewers who haven't been with us. We've talked about the Information Ministry, but this marketplace is a large marketplace in Baghdad. What do you know about the marketplace, and what do you know about that bombing?

BRAHIMI: Well, I spoke to some people in Baghdad, and hospital sources say that there were some 47 to 57 people killed just in that attack. A very, very popular marketplace in the north of Baghdad. It's an area where a lot of people were going, and it was a time of day where lots of people would have been there. It's 6 p.m., rush hour there. And the marketplace is located near a hospital where they were already treating the wounded from a previous attack in a marketplace. A lot of shock there.

KAGAN: Rym, I'm going to have to jump in here. I want to apologize for the interruption, but we have other news coming in from Atlanta, and Anderson's going to handle that. Rym Brahimi in Amman. Thank you. Anderson?

COOPER: Daryn, thanks very much. I'm sorry to interrupt. We're going to go to Bob Franken, who has, for the last 24 hours or so, been in an air base somewhere in southern Iraq. Bob, what are we looking at over there? These are new pictures coming in. Live pictures. What are we looking at?

FRANKEN: Brand new live pictures, Anderson. This is the first wave of A-10s. We knew that they were coming, but obviously, for censorship reasons, couldn't tell that. These are the anti-tank planes that are going to be coming in and basing out of here, being 150 miles closer to the action. The ones that are supporting the ground troops.

With me is Lieutenant Colonel Baha (ph), who is the A-10 commander here. Tell me what we're seeing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well we've got the first twoship (ph) of A- 10s rolling out now. They'll be taxiing back in. Today we're going to be giving them some gas and sending them into the fight headed north.

FRANKEN: You can see, as a matter of fact, Jerry (ph), there is one on our right that has landed, and it is taxiing up to the site. What it is taxiing up to is the refueling trucks. Tell me about that and why the trucks had to be here before we could really get this operation going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole purpose of moving north is to give us more time in the target area. And by staging out of here it's going to give us an additional 25-30 minutes of loiter time in the target area, which gives us a lot of opportunity to expend on the enemy.

FRANKEN: I get the impression that this is a real key change in the way that the war is going to be fought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big change. We're heading forward, moving north, along with the Army and the Marines. This will tie us in together and help service many targets for them.

FRANKEN: In addition to running the operation here, you actually fly these planes. Tell me what you're capable of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct, we -- while on a single mission -- we can carry a variety of munitions, from MK-82s, 500 pound bombs, to GBU cluster bombs. Of course the gun itself, which the A-10 is known for, can carry over 1100 rounds. And, plus, the Maverick missiles, usually what we're carrying. So in any particular mission we can service easily from probably 10-12 vehicles out there if we needed to.

FRANKEN: Now, we are not able to talk about what these planes are going to do. That comes under one of the definitions of things that we're not allowed to report. But give me the options of what types of things these planes and others will be doing from here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much anything the Army and Marines is going to face up against, we can take out. Whether it's a tank, everything from the heaviest armor all the way to the thin-skinned vehicles. So everything that we have posing us we can take out.

FRANKEN: And as we're talking, we're seeing the fuel trucks leaving the garages here and racing to that plane. This is an operation that goes pretty quickly, doesn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's affirmative. We're, right now, because it's gas only, we can get these guys turned in probably 20-30 minutes, and get them out of town and back into action.

FRANKEN: Now it's remarkable. When we came here yesterday there was nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is a pretty bare base. And we're building up slowly. But minimum capability right now, just being able to gas and get back into the fight. And we're looking to bring more to the fight later.

FRANKEN: And, as I understand it, there may come a time when you base some of your planes here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's in the plans in the future. We don't know how that timeline is going to run. A lot of variables there. But the sooner we can get the Hogs in the fight and deeper into the (unintelligible), the quicker this will come to an end.

FRANKEN: About this airport. It hasn't been used for 10 years for all practical purposes. But it's in pretty good shape, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, as far as airports go, it's in excellent shape. All the surfaces are wonderful, the runways are being cleared now, and the taxiways are fine. There's a lot of army helping us out around here, and it should be up to speed in no time.

FRANKEN: Anderson, as you can see, we've now seen what may be considered a significant part of the air war here, supporting the ground troops with the arrival of the first A-10s at this newly taken over airport that is now going to become a significant air base for the American effort, taking it 150 miles closer to the action, and taking those very lethal A-10s that much closer to the action. Anderson?

COOPER: Bob, it's remarkable when I think that just 24 hours ago, when you arrived at this base, there was virtually nothing there. Already, they are refueling A-10 Warthogs that are going to be used for close air support. And Bob, I've got a question for you. Don't know if you can answer it, and if you can't, I understand. How does this work? Does the plane leave with the mission in mind from Kuwait, and just refuel there? Or are these things circling in the sky at all times, just ready to be called upon by troops on the ground, or Marines on the ground any time they're needed?

FRANKEN: I hope this doesn't sound flip, but the answer is yes, they do leave with mission plans. But one of the things we've had explained to us time and again is that plans change, particularly for the airplanes like the A-10 that are supporting the ground missions. Things change on the ground, of course, almost instantly, and so, as you just heard a moment ago from Lieutenant Colonel Baha (ph), they hover. They just wait until someone says "I need you at such-and-such a place." And, of course, their main function is just to destroy what's on the ground. They have remarkable Gatling machine guns which can just shred just about anything, including tanks. They're called anti-tank planes. By the way, you can see the second one now in the refueling area. This is a business strip. This is not something where they're doing a show-and-tell or just coming here to park.

As I said, we can't tell you what their mission is going to be, but the possibilities are that they stay here, that they refuel here and stay here for a while, or that they just touch down, get a fill up, get their windshields washed, and go out again, looking for targets of opportunity. Anderson?

COOPER: Alright. Bob Franken. Thanks very much. Those are the first pictures we're getting of that, and we appreciate them. Bob, thanks very much. We're going to go to Daryn Kagan in Kuwait City. Daryn?

KAGAN: Anderson, we want to go ahead an update one of the developing stories that we're watching this hour, and that is the news that a suicide bomber, and that incident taking place in Najaf at a checkpoint. Let's go to CENTCOM in Doha, Qatar, and our Tom Mintier for more on that. Tom, what have you learned?

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We heard from a press conference just a while ago that they would ambush coalition forces. Now apparently one of those ambushes involved a car loaded with explosives. This was supposedly in Najaf, and this was in the Third Infantry Division area. Apparently a roadblock security checkpoint was set up on the highway. CENTCOM confirms that there were casualties after this car was exploded on the road. They say there were two people in the car.

Associated Press and the Jerusalem Post are reporting that five American soldiers were killed. CENTCOM not offering any confirmations except that there were casualties. So we'll have to wait and see if there is any update later this afternoon here at CENTCOM headquarters at the briefing. But, as it stands now, a suicide bomber apparently detonated a vehicle on the highway near Najaf at an American Third Infantry Division checkpoint, and killing apparently two people in the car, and according to the Associated Press and Jerusalem Post, five American Soldiers at that military checkpoint. We hope to have more details later this afternoon on that -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And Tom, that next CENTCOM briefing, that's about an hour and a half away from now?

MINTIER: Yes, it's about an hour and a half. We've been told that Brigadier General Vincent Brooks will do the briefing, and it's possible that he may be joined by someone else, usually that's


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