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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with Central Command Spokesman

Aired March 29, 2003 - 06:22   ET

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

"The Washington Post," Friday: "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," Lt. General William Wallace, U.S. Army.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We -- more U.S. enforcements, or reinforcements, I should say, arriving in the Gulf region to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Joining me now from Central Command in Doha, Qatar, Central Command spokesman Captain Frank Thorp.

Captain, thanks for being with us. I want to just start off with the latest information you have on this apparent suicide bombing in Najaf. What can you tell us?

CAPTAIN FRANK THORP, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND SPOKESMAN: We have a report that a vehicle with two people in the vehicle came to a checkpoint. The people were dressed in civilian clothes. And the car exploded. First and second reports are often incorrect, but the reports that we have at this point is that we do have five casualties.

COOPER: OK. We're -- I anticipate we'll hear some more in about 35 minutes from the CENT Command briefing that we're going to be carrying live.

Also want -- there's a lot to talk about. I want to ask you about the situation in Basra. There was an airstrike by U.S. coalition fighters. Can you tell us about it?

THORP: Sure can, Anderson. As you've heard over the last couple of days, there's been a lot of activity down there, quite frankly, with coalition forces working to protect the Iraqi people as they attempt to escape from Basra. Yesterday afternoon our time out here, there was a long line of Iraqi people attempting to leave the city. They were taken under fire by Iraqi paramilitary forces and many casualties happened.

Throughout the night, we kept track of these paramilitary forces. There was a very large meeting. We're told perhaps 200 of these paramilitary forces, significantly they were leadership members, were known to be in a meeting house. Air Force F-15 fighters were called in and dropped ordnance on it. And we understand that that meeting was terminated.

COOPER: Have you done any sort of a damage assessment? Do you have any sense of casualties involved? THORP: Preliminary results are that the -- that the ordnance was right on target, that we didn't have -- the paramilitary force's leadership were unable to escape. And hopefully that will quite -- go a long way to quieting the area down in Basra and protect the people and allow some of the humanitarian supplies that are now in Umm Qasr on the ship, as well as the two truckloads in, allow some of that to get up to Basra. Significantly, at the same time what we have going on in Basra is an attempt to restore electricity and water to the -- to the city so these Iraqi people can get back on their feet.

COOPER: OK. We've also been hearing a lot, moving elsewhere, been hearing a lot from An Nasiriya. Pentagon confirming four bodies of U.S. military personnel have been found in Nasiriya. We've been hearing from our own embedded correspondent, Art Harris, about the -- there was apparently some sort of a mission today, Marines trying to take -- get the rest of the city. Apparently they had the north, they had the south, moving to the center. Can you tell us any update on what the latest on the ground in Nasiriya is?

THORP: I sure can. Let me -- let me touch on a couple of things there. Now first of all, yes, we have found four bodies. And we are working now to identify them and send those bodies back to the United States. Probably more to follow on that.

Significantly, throughout Iraq last night, the coalition forces struck nine Baath Party headquarters throughout the region. Last night was a significant effort to hit command and control facilities throughout the country, as well as inside the city of Baghdad.

The other significant thing that happened last night that I think your viewers have already heard a lot about is the deep strike onto the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi divisions there right outside the city of Baghdad. That would very strongly indicate that the operation continues. There seems to be some speculation that it's not, but that deep strike is a very significant effort...

COOPER: OK.

THORP: ... to decrease the capabilities of the Republican Guard up there outside the city.

COOPER: All right. Frank Thorp, appreciate you joining us. We'll have more from the briefing in U.S. Central Command in about 34 minutes. Thanks very much for joining us.

Let's go to Daryn Kagan in Kuwait City.

THORP: Thank you, Anderson.

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