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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

POW Rescued With 11 Unidentified Bodies

Aired April 2, 2003 - 04:02   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You are looking at a live picture of Baghdad where more explosions rocked the city earlier this morning while farther away there are reports that the early stages, and we do say the early stages, of what will be the battle of Baghdad have begun.
Here's what we know right now. U.S. Central Command says U.S. forces are fighting Iraqi forces south of Baghdad. They have crossed the Tigris River just north of the city of Kut, which is about 100 miles from Baghdad.

There's the map.

Some other units are even closer to Iraq's capital city. CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre and other reporters covering the war say the advance on Baghdad will be very systematic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL GORDON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well there's an important development today which is that, well, the U.S. military has begun the battle of Baghdad. It's something that begins maybe a bit slowly, but they've taken the first step by launching an attack on the Republican Guard defenders who are guarding the approaches to this city.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This is -- this is not the street-to-street fighting in Baghdad that so many have anticipated. This map helps explain exactly what Gordon is talking about when he says the battle of Baghdad. The blue arrows represent U.S. troops on the move. The red arrows represent Iraqi Republican Guard divisions that are trying to block the way to Baghdad. But the Pentagon says U.S. forces are weakening the Iraqi divisions to the point that Iraq has had to reinforce them with troops from the north. That's that red arrow coming down from Tikrit, which is the ancestral homeland of Saddam Hussein.

We're going to get an update on this and everything else from Tom Mintier who is live at Central Command in Doha, Qatar -- Tom.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Central Command has confirmed within the last few minutes that two Republican Guard units are engaged and there is heavy fighting reported. This follows the announcement overnight that an American POW was rescued in a raid in Nasiriya at a hospital there, an Iraqi hospital there, where a combined group of forces made a raid after diversionary fire was launched in another part of the city. They went into this hospital and found 19-year-old PFC. Jessica Lynch, who is from West Virginia, and managed to spirit her out. They also recovered 11 unidentified bodies from this hospital. And that's about all that Central Command is saying that they have recovered 11 sets of remains at the hospital and one live POW. Jessica Lynch reportedly shot several times, fairly serious injuries, but she has talked to her parents already after being taken back to the coalition side. The parents say that it's quite possible that they may fly to Germany to meet up with their daughter if indeed she is taken there for treatment.

The announcement came in the middle of the night and a bit of a shock. President Bush was notified of this operation and its success at about 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time last evening in the United States. And his response was "that's great."

Here at Central Command, it was a bit more less with emotion than just announcing that the operation indeed had been completed successfully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIG. GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Coalition forces have conducted a successful rescue mission of a U.S. Army prisoner of war held captive in Iraq. The soldier has been returned to a coalition-controlled area. More details will be released as soon as possible.

Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MINTIER: As soon as -- as soon as possible may be later this afternoon. We're expecting at -- in about three hours, a little less, a CENTCOM briefing here at the coalition media center. And maybe at that point, there were reportedly pictures of this raid from an Army combat team that had cameras out there. So we'll wait and see if those pictures materialize. But as it stands right now, 19-year-old PFC. Jessica Lynch is back safely in coalition hands, was listed as missing. And also, 11 sets of remains, as yet unidentified, were recovered by this team that went in for the rescue of the POW -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Tom, thanks very much. We'll check in with you in a little while. Tom Mintier live in Doha, Qatar.

Central Command, as Tom mentioned, is scheduled to hold its regular morning news briefing about three hours from now, a little under three hours, at 7:00 Eastern Time. And of course, as always, you can watch it right here live on CNN.

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