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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. Marines Seize An Numaniyah Air Base in Central Iraq

Aired April 3, 2003 - 01:00   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan live from Kuwait City. It is just after 9 a.m. on Thursday morning here. Let's take a look at the latest developments this hour.
Our Martin Savidge reporting that U.S. Marines have seized the An Numaniyah Air Base in Central Iraq, after securing the base late Wednesday Savidge says the 1st Battalion 7th Marines fired artillery towards Iraqi forces on Thursday. He says the Iraqis did not return fire.

Explosions have been heard in Baghdad throughout the night. There is also reports of planes and anti-aircraft fire. British troops continue the night work in Basra firing flares to try to spot Iraqi troops.

In the north, the village of Domiz was hit Wednesday, residents saying a military compound used by Saddam Hussein Baath party was a target there.

Two U.S. aircraft are reported down in Iraq. Military officials say a search and rescue operation is underway for the pilot of a Navy FA-18C Hornet from the carrier Kittyhawk. Officials also say a Blackhawk helicopter was down near Karbala. The Pentagon says seven people were killed, four wounded in that incident. But Central Command says only six people were on board and it is not commenting on casualties.

U.S. soldiers were bringing food to Iraqis in the western part of the country on Wednesday. Some of them also spent time convincing a child to try and American hamburger. After a little coaxing, he took a bite and gave a smile.

It is not all fighting for U.S. forces in Iraq. Some Air Force maintenance personnel had some down time and were able to play a little baseball, even though a stick had to take the place of a bat.

And those are the headlines at this hour. Now back to Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Daryn, we looked at the front page of the one of the two papers in the last half hour. What's the second one tonight? The front page of "The Arab Times" or the "Kuwait"...

KAGAN: The "Arab Times."

BROWN: Got it.

KAGAN: Yes. We looked at the "Kuwaiti Times." We'll look at the "Arab Times." Once again, the big picture features a child. It's actually an interesting picture framed by the adult. It's a child peeking out. This is from an area near Nasiriya. And the adult and the child are waiting for some humanitarian aid to be delivered to them, a hungry child peaking out on the front page of the paper.

But interesting here, I'm not going to zoom in too much on this picture, but I will explain what it is. This is Jessica Lynch and her rescue. This, of course, is the picture that has been seen a lot in the United states. And then below the fold, an equal-sized picture shows the body of an Iraqi women who was one of the casualties of this war. Just the media, in general, tends to be more graphic here in the Arab world Aaron.

And if you'll allow me just one more slice of life here. From the sports pages, you have your baseball news, but also you have your bowling league. The bowling league is underway here in Kuwait.

BROWN: Bowling like I think of bowling?

KAGAN: Yes, yes, if you can look closely you can see there's the bowling balls. And that's the bowling league here in Kuwait. The 14s are eyeing the finals of the Kuwait bowling league. I thought you would like to see this. Bowling goes on here as war wages 50 miles away -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you to Daryn Kagan. Daryn and Anderson Cooper will take you through much of the morning here. I hope you'll stay with them. We have been trying to reach out to as many correspondents out in the field as we can get. Each provides a different piece of the puzzle. And all those puzzle pieces put together the whole picture.

Joining us now on the phone is the "National Journal" foreign affairs -- national security correspondent James Kitfield. He's with the Army's 5th Corp. It's good to have you with us. You might explain first exactly the sort of unit you are with, because you are close to the command of the 5th Corp, right?

JAMES KITFIELD, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": That's correct. I'm with the 5th Corps forward command. The 5th Corps has command of all the Army maneuver forces out of Baghdad. So, along with the Marines on the east side, they've been managing the war on the west. And I'm with their forward command post, which went up into Iraq in the early days to manage the battle we've seen with the Republican Guards and with Baghdad.

BROWN: And that would include General Wallace, correct?

KITFIELD: Correct. He is the commander of this headquarters I'm with.

BROWN: What can you report for us tonight?

KITFIELD: I mean, obviously, the last 24 hours have been key. You know, after what has been described as a pause sort of speak in the last week as they sort of recalibrated and recocked. They've been zeroing in on the Medina forces.

And it was not reported, it can be reported now that in the very beginning they had identified this very small area called the carbolic (ph) gap as their entranceway, basically, into Baghdad and into flanking and enveloping the Medina. They did that yesterday 12:00 local time. And it was a very successful operation. And the Medina, basically, has seized to exist as a functioning division now. And that's basically open, as they have told me here, to Baghdad.

BROWN:: Michael Gordon in the "New York Times" reported to us a short while ago, a couple of hours ago that they now believe that commanders where he is in Kuwait believe that the rest of the Republican Guard that is still standing is pulling back towards Baghdad to fight it out in the streets of Baghdad. Are you hearing anything like that?

KITFIELD: Yes, I'm hearing the same thing as Michael. They had for awhile, they had some units from the north come and reinforce the Medina. I think when that fight, you know, was lost yesterday, they started to try and pull those forces back into Baghdad.

I watched last night on live TV, a live Hunter, unmanned vehicle video as their air power took out many of those vehicles trying to get back to Baghdad. But the word they're getting now and this morning is that some of those units, the Hammurabi, particularly, and some other, the Al Nida (ph) division are sort of consolidating back into Baghdad as sort of a final ring of defense.

BROWN: Is that surprising to General Wallace or the officers underneath General Wallace?

KITFIELD: I don't think so. I think that going into this war one of the great unanswered questions was how long and how hard these people would fight. You know, I think the Pentagon painted itself into the corner when it said that there were no surprises about how hard some of these Iraqi units and some of these paramilitaries have fought. Of course, there has been a surprise and it's forced them to adjust their tactics in the last week.

After they had -- going in and I was into the battle plan right before the war started, but the hope was very much that they would basically deliver hammer blows to the Medina sending a lesson to the other Republican Guard units that it's time to give up the fight. That has not happened. So, I don't know if you want to call it a surprise, but there is some disappointment that the Republican Guard, even though, they have seen how quickly the Medina has destroyed have continued to fight.

BROWN: Do they then believe that this fight in the city will not -- not that any urban fight is an easy one -- but that it will be particularly nasty?

KITFIELD: Certainly the lessons of the past week is that when they have gone into urban areas it has gotten, you know, it has gotten nasty pretty fast in the sense that the advantages the American forces enjoy are range and maneuver speed, and both those things are cut down drastically in an urban setting. They had two -- basically, one deep strike over the Apache helicopters got shot up very badly when it went over an urban area. But they certainly are not relishing the idea of having to go into an urban fight.

However, if you look at what is happening in the cities along the south that have not fallen, like an-Najaf and Samawah and Nasiriya, I think you are seeing sort of the mini strategy of what will take place in Baghdad, which is to encircle the city and then to strike at -- using their reconnaissance and intelligence -- strike at centers of power by which the forces are still hanging on to the power in Baghdad.

And do quick what they call thunder road strikes of hit and then sort of withdraw, rather than try to take it neighborhood by neighborhood, as we've seen some of the old World War II footage. They very much want to avoid the kind of destruction that that wreaks.

BROWN: And that is just a slower, more patient, more surgical approach to urban combat then the Iraqis would probably like to fight?

KITFIELD: Absolutely. And it really has not been tried before. But, then again, there has been no Army who has tried to do this with the technological advantages and capabilities that this Army has. So this is something new. And we are going to see in the coming, I would say days, not weeks, as that starts to take place, how successful it is.

Again, they think they've had some success in the south by doing this. Their intelligence identifies a headquarter, the Feyadeen, for instance, and the precision strike comes down there and bombs that. And then they watch and see where those people regroup. And constantly whittle away at these people's hold on the levers of power in these cities. And I think you are going to see something very much like that playoff in Baghdad, once they have their forces positioned on the outside and they feel they have that kind of freedom of movement to do that.

BROWN: And, Tim, to what extent this requires the local population to be supportive of the Americans as they come in?

KITFIELD: Well, certainly, that's very helpful and sometimes they wish for. What they really -- it's not so much they want their help is they want, to the extent possible, to be out of the way. And that, obviously, has been complicated by the strategy that some of the Republican Guards have tried to adopt of using human shields. And of putting their weapons in hospitals or schools. Certainly that is a tactic the Fedayeen has used extensively in this war already.

So, this is one of the great complications of this strategy is these levers of power are not discreet just to the Feyadeen. These people have in the Republican Guard they have become quite expert at putting them near mosques, and schools and hospitals, as we've said. And that complicates their mission. It causes them to be much more patient in this. And the question will be if that patience is tried by calls back home to get this thing over with.

BROWN: This is probably a little unfair, given that you have been embedded where you have, but strategically is there enough of an American force in the north to essentially shut the back door to Baghdad so that they can't back out north.

KITFIELD: Well, there is not much north. There is not a force that is encircled from the north. These people -- they are not afraid of Saddam and his forces trying to leave. That would play right into their hands, and they would love that, because they own the air. And if these people try to slip away, they think they'll find them. It is when they are hunkered down in these bunkers and retaining their grip on these cities that that's the greatest technical challenge.

So they are threatening -- thy basically encircled Baghdad from the south and the east with Marines, the east with the Marines and the south with the Army. They have forces maneuvering, I think, who will probably threaten from the West before too long. It starts to get into future operations which I can't get into. But, basically, you know, Baghdad is the center of power for this mission and they know that. They are less concerned about them trying to sort of leave Baghdad. I think that will play into their strategy.

BROWN: Jim, thanks a lot. Jamie Kitfield, the "National Journal" with the 5th Corps of the Army.

General Clark, all make sense the way -- it was just laid out, you know the General, General Wallace pretty well.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I do think it makes a lot of sense what's being said. A couple of things we don't know about this. Number one, of course, is we don't know how strongly the Iraqis are going to resist. And, number two, we don't if we are going to get any real help from the local population. And so there are major unknowns going into this.

But what's remarkable to me, Aaron, if you think back a few days ago when we had the terrorist incident with the taxi cab driver who blew up the four American soldiers. And we were talking then. We were saying, my, god, this is a specter. It could be a foretaste of what's to come. What if terrorism takes a grip here.

But it hasn't. Despite the claim that Vice President Ramadan made of thousands of these martyrs willing to die, we haven't seen any more martyrs willing to die. We haven't seen anymore successful suicide attacks on our forces. And it's when you get to the hard facts of execution of intent that the differences appear to be success and failure.

And in this case, the Iraqis are promising a strategy they haven't been able -- or tactic they haven't been able to deliver. Whereas on our tactics, where we've said air power is going to take them out, we deliver. And we said ground forces are going to advance, we deliver. So, there's the difference in the battle.

BROWN: I'm sorry, what's interesting to me about that is that about a week ago we had a conversation where you said one of the things that is happening is that the Iraqis, in fact, are telling us what they are going to do. Maybe they have run out of the ability to do that or they are not doing it anymore.

CLARK: No, that is exactly right. Now, across the bottom of the screen, just flashing a statement that the Iraqis say they've only used one third of their army well, you know, we've used far less than one third of our forces, and we've suffered very, very minimal casualties. The one third of the army they've used has basically been chewed up and destroyed or is fleeing back in pieces to Baghdad.

So there is really no comparison in this. And the end is in sight at least militarily. The question is, can we do it in the smoothest way for our overall political objectives. That is, avoiding long delay here that stretches this battle for Baghdad into the months and months. And can we avoid taking losses. And can we avoid inflicting a lot of needless civilian casualties. So, we've got to make some difficult tradeoffs here. But we're certainly capable of doing that.

BROWN: Is the model of what we're likely to see, what the British have been doing over the last five days or so in Basra?

CLARK: I think that is one model. But my guess is we won't see it played out quite the same way. For on thing, our technology is a little bit different than British technology. For another thing, you've got a different problem in that this is the main objective. The assumption has to be that you can peck around the edges at Basra, or you can encircle it, and as long as it can't interfere with ongoing operations against Baghdad, it's no big deal. But in the case of Baghdad, we don't to do that.

So, we're going to want to be as decisive as we can, in as very intelligent way against Baghdad. Maybe it will be just what Jim Kitfield thought, these thunder runs penetrating into cities, shooting up areas of resistance of resistance and pulling back. Maybe it will be the seizure of small sections of the cities using them as platforms to launch off.

Maybe it will be a series of coordinated urban uprisings led by our special forces with air assaults into unprotected areas of the city, which pose multiple avenues of approach into the most sensitive parts of Baghdad. It's hard to say what's in mind, but we have got lots of options.

BROWN: And just in 20 seconds or so, is this likely to start in a day or two days or a week?

CLARK: I'd look for a little bit longer than a day or two, maybe four for five days, maybe a week. We want to get set again. After the troops have been up three, four nights they have pushed and they're not quite there yet. They need time to reset, rearm, load, rest, plan, rehearse and get ready for the next phrase.

BROWN: General Clark, thank you. We will take a break. And our coverage continues in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, we go to the north now, minus the fanfare and all of the American ground forces that are there, the terrain is somewhat reminiscent of Afghanistan. And, in some ways, the situation is. There is an indigenous forces there, the Kurdish forces who are working largely with the American special operations forces. CNN's Brent Sadler is covering all of that, and he joins us again this morning. Nice to see you.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, too, Aaron. Let me tell you, you are absolutely right. There is growing cooperation and combat liaison between these indigenous forces, largely the Iraqi Kurds in this part of the battle theater, if you would like, Kurds and U.S. special forces right now combining their efforts really to take more territory along the northern front.

We've seen discernable changes among many parts of the front. It is really an inactive front in terms of what we're seeing, like in comparison to the south. But certainly right now, we do have confirmation that the Kurds are moving closer to Mosul, which is one of the two major cities in the north of Iraq still under Saddam Hussein's control.

This is a different form of combat to what we are seeing in the south. This is really heavy coalition bombing of Iraqi positions, troops, and equipment around both Mosul and the major northern city under Saddam Hussein's grip, Kirkuk. And really, U.S. bombing followed up by movements inch-by-inch not hand-to-hand fighting, but inch by inch as the Iraqis withdraw from terrorist.

Also a very important piece of news, Colin Powell U.S. Secretary of State secured Turkish permission to be in about 200 vehicles, unspecified what sort of vehicles into northern Iraq to bolster the U.S. ground force presence here. And, today, it's now possible to drive within about ten miles, literally about a 15, 20-minute drive from Kirkuk. And a fascinating eyeball sight I had of the oil capital when I managed to get through the lines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SADLER (voice-over): A back road leading to Kirkuk, the heartland of northern Iraq's oil wealth, a road that's now in the hands of Iraqi Kurdish forces. Occupying these positions, straddled along a crescent shaped frontline east of Kirkuk. This land fell into Iraqi Kurdish hands without a shot being fired. Iraqi soldiers fled these positions in a hurry, under the onslaught of coalition bombing. This is the end of the road for Kurdish forces, manning this remote checkpoint. But with special permission, they let us through.

(on camera): We are now between the lines, a no man's land of abandoned Iraqi bunkers and an unnerving silence broken by the war of warplanes and the distant thud of air strikes. This territory is within easy artillery range of Saddam Hussein's forces and circling Kirkuk, the oil capital of northern Iraq is visible behind me just over there, a harmless flare of burning gases as easily identifiable. Iraq oil feels remain intact. Also intact, Kirkuk's defenses in the distant haze. Iraq's armed opposition including these Kurds, waits on the sidelines to join the fray. If America asks...

PRIME MINISTER BARHAM SALEH, KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOV.: This is about freedom for the Iraqis. This is about the liberation of Iraq, and we Iraqis must shoulder the responsibility of helping in the process of the liberation.

SADLER (voice-over): Ands, says the Iraqi opposition, in winning this war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SADLER: And that armed Iraqi opposition, Aaron, is now pushing very hard to convince U.S. war planners, generals on the ground here that those indigenous forces can actually be used to greater effect than they are already being used now. In other words, as the pressure builds on Baghdad from the south, they want to see pressure increased on both Kirkuk and Mosul. It's happening now.

But they say with a force of 60 to 70,000 armed, mostly Iraqi Kurds under U.S. command and control, with close air support and the combination of Kurdish fighters and U.S. special forces they can have a greater impact on this northern area, so that you get more of a squeeze on those two northern cities. If that doesn't happen, they believe, then there could be a long wait before Baghdad is pressured into surrender or collapse, and then you have a kind of domino effect where Kirkuk and Mosul falls automatically.

The Kurds, though, pushing for pressure to build both from the north and in the near future. A combination of U.S. and local forces to really put a vice-like grip north and south on Saddam Hussein -- Aaron.

BROWN: Now, do they want to do that simply because it's a military objective, or do the Kurds who have a whole host of complicated political agendas here want to do that for their own political reasons that they, then they, the Kurds have control of the area?

SADLER: Now, this is part of the big, big picture problem you have you. Turkey, which watches specifically what Iraqi Kurds may or may not do. The concern in Ankara that the Kurds could strike-out for opportunity, raise their flags over Kirkuk., but this, specifically, Kirkuk largely populated by Kurds and create a very unstable situation here.

You have U.S. forces on the ground. The 173rd Airborne Brigade now at full strength in terms of manpower just about, really here as a stabilization force to keep that very uneasy balance. But, Aaron, the important thing is the Iraqi Kurds are pushing for this -- push, if you like, under the umbrella, not of the Kurds but of the Iraqi opposition.

And the leadership council the Iraqi opposition is not only the Kurdish factions but also the other factions, the supreme council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq and other groups. So a pan, if you like, Iraqi combination of various forces dominated, as you know, by the Iraqi Kurds. But the Iraqi Kurds say they want to be reliable partners of the U.S., really do nothing to trigger Turkish intervention but critically, they say, they can add a lot of fire power.

And, more importantly, perhaps, Aaron, they believe they can spark an uprising within Kirkuk, specifically, where they claim to have big support. And if that were to happen, if that were to be successful, then that could be a model to be followed up by other Iraqi opposition groups, some of them armed in other cities and villages right through the country. It may not happen now, but it could happen soon as we see what happens toward the offensive, toward the push to get to Baghdad -- Aaron.

BROWN: Brent, thank you. Brent Sadler in the northern part of the country. Lots to digest there.

It's something we've talked about a lot tonight, the fear that the battle of Baghdad will be fought, ultimately, at some level hand to hand, street to street. This is a concern in lots of places, Iraqi militants trying to draw U.S. forces into crowded areas. It's not just Baghdad, it's gone on in other parts, too. CNN's Ryan Chilcote went along on a haunt that literally went house to house in the city of Najaf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Grunts from the 327th Infantry 2nd Battalion, better known as "no slack," marched through a patch of palm trees, black clouds of smoke, and 69 land mines into Iraq's holy city of Najaf. The second day of an attack to route out Fedayeen paramilitaries who have used the city as a safe haven to launch attacks against U.S. forces for more than a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go.

CHILCOTE: The goal to deny the Fedayeen's movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a family of six. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHILCOTE: While causing minimum disruption to the largely pro- American Shia population and its religious sites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

CHILCOTE (on camera): Searching house to house, street to street is slow, tedious and dangerous work. If it comes to this in Baghdad, things could take a very long time.

(voice-over): But first, some of cities on the way to Baghdad, like this one, will have to be secured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready? Let's go.

CHILCOTE: Teams of four move with painstaking procedure, a dozen blocks deep into the heart of Najaf. Sergeant Michael Bowers from Virginia sharing my take on the day.

(on camera): What do you think about this door-to-door, street to street stuff?

SGT. MICHAEL BOWERS: Long and tedious.

CHILCOTE (voice-over): No Slack took no casualties and no return fire. They did see a lot of visibly pleased locals, though. Many of the Fedayeen they were told fled north to Baghdad. Still, they could come back, and there is no telling how many of them are still at large.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN with the 101st Airborne in Najaf, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: General, have the soldiers in the Marines been training for this sort of house-to-house battle that may take place?

CLARK: Yes, they have, Aaron, very intensively. The Marine Corps, several years ago, determined that it was really going to do a study of urban combat and work it. And the U.S. Army forces, particularly units like the 101st have gone through urban combat training again and again and again.

So in terms of the procedures, the teamwork at the squad and the platoon level, where there are 10, 20 soldiers working together, how to get into a room, who covers who's back, how do you maintain 360- degree security so you are not surprised and so forth? We're very good at that. And I think it shows. When we started commenting on the battles, we saw the struggle around Nasiriya, and we heard there were big fights, and they went on for several days.

We couldn't quite see it. It looks more clearer now that we're able to go into areas. We're able to eliminate resistance, and we're able to do it without taking a lot of losses and without destroying the city. So it's promising.

BROWN: It can be done. General Clark, we will have a little more time with you tonight. General Clark's out west in Las Vegas tonight. We will update the significant headlines of the day. We'll take a look at some of the morning papers from around country and much more. We need it take a break. Our coverage continues as you look at Baghdad on a Thursday morning.

KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan live in Kuwait City. Let's take a look at the developments at this hour.

The Pentagon says a U.S. Navy fighter jet from the carrier Kittyhawk has been downed in Iraq. The Pentagon says a search is underway for the pilot of the FA-18C Hornet. Looking at a file video right now of the warplane. The pilot's name is being withheld until family members are notified.

Another U.S. aircraft down. The Pentagon says small arm fire brought down an Army Black Hawk helicopter near Karbala on Wednesday. The Pentagon says seven people on board were killed, four people were rescued. Central command says only six people were on board and has no word on casualties.

Explosions have been heard in Baghdad overnight. Anti-aircraft fire has also been reported. The explosion came after U.S. forces apparently defeated elements of the Republican Guard and moved closer to the city.

On Wednesday, our Karl Penhaul reported that coalition forces were 15 miles from the southern edge of Baghdad.

British Royal Marines find what is believed to be a torture chamber, used by Saddam Hussein's internal security police. A BBC reporter with the marines says the chamber is in a police station in southern Iraq. It was equipped with hooks hanging from ceilings.

Let's turn now to some other news, including 16 people who were killed by a bomb blast in the Philippines port city of Davao on Wednesday. Forty others were injured. The nation's president has ordered what she calls a total war on terrorists after that blast.

Now with that, we'll toss it back to Aaron in Atlanta.

BROWN: Daryn, thank you very much. And we'll let you go get ready for the rest of the morning. Daryn joins Anderson Cooper to take you through the morning.

We'll take a look at some of the morning papers from around country. And again, we'll start with the "Charleston Gazette," the state newspaper of West Virginia. That's what they call themselves, so we shall, too.

And the headline is "Baghdad in sight," but the sub-headline, as you would imagine, is "Relief and reflection, the story of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. I'm not sure if I tilt this you can see that any better. I'm not sure you will.

And they also did -- this a huge story because she is a West Virginian and so they did another story on the front page called "Psychological healing could take some time." It's a very big story for them and they put it on their front page.

The "Chicago Sun-Times:" "Dagger pointed at heart of regime." They also have SARS on the front page. They note that cell -- the first cell phone call was made 30 years ago today.

And we'd like to point out this. There we go, the weather tomorrow is "Downfall in Chicago." "Sun-Times" has a wonderful editor there who very cleverly comes up for a word from the weather.

"Detroit Free Press," "Copter down on march to Baghdad." This is the story of that Black Hawk helicopter that went down around dinner time, our time, in the east. That's the big headline in the "Detroit Free Press."

"Charlotte Observer," Charlotte, North Carolina. "We know we have them on the run," that's the quote, and that's the picture that will grace the pages of the "Charlotte Observer" when it lands on the front doorstep in that city.

The "Albuquerque Journal." Everybody's pretty much centered now on the beginning of the end game, that "Baghdad is in sight." That's the headline there. But most newspapers, not all, but most have now started putting SARS on the front page. Though not in the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch." It's a fine newspaper. "Troops close in on capital" there.

The "Dallas Morning News" besides "Closing in on Baghdad," which is their headline has a story by their TV writer, "Is war newest reality TV?" Only looked at the first few pages of it, but that's Ed Bart, the TV critic of the "Dallas Morning News."

Couple of others here. "The Times Herald-Record," which is upstate New York. It's a terrific picture on the front page. "Storming the guard" is the headline and they also got into their edition that the Black Hawk helicopter had been shot down. Someone was nice enough to send me the rest of newspaper. Sometimes I only get to see the front page of these and they sent me the rest today.

"The Detroit News," the other morning paper in Detroit, one of few stories left with two newspapers at all in the country. "U.S. has Baghdad in its cross hairs." And "Mystery flu cases suspected in the area." I'm sure that's a SARS story up there.

We've got time for one or two more. Well, one or two would work exactly right here. "The Herald-Sun," this is an Australian paper, "Saving Private Lynch."

And "The Daily Telegraph," "Saving Private Lynch."

Take a break. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: In ordinary times, it is not at all odd for reporters to be out of pocket, as we say, for a day or two. Maybe even three. Working the story, their editors figure they'll surface eventually. But these aren't ordinary times and nine days is a long time, especially from someone who is in a war and perhaps has been taken prisoner.

And that is the story of a number of journalists who have made their way out now of Iraq. Here's CNN's Rym Brahimi, who reports to us from Amman, Jordan.

Rym, good morning.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Aaron.

Well, indeed a lot of the journalists that are still in Baghdad, they're trying under very difficult circumstances to report the war. And four of those, at least, will probably never forget their last week in the Iraqi capital. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't much fun...

BRAHIMI (voice-over): Safe at least: four journalists who had disappeared from their hotel in Baghdad nine days ago, crossed the Iraqi border with Jordan to safety on Tuesday night.

Arriving in the Jordanian capital of Amman in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the group was looking forward to a night of comfort after seven days at the notorious Abu Raib (ph) prison. It's believed to be the largest in Iraq. And is located on the outskirts of Baghdad.

From their separate cells, the journalists said they could hear the intensive bombing outside and anti-aircraft artillery nearby. They said they also heard the moans and cries of other prisoners.

MATTHEW MCALLESTER, "NEWSDAY" REPORTER: We could hear screams especially at night. But I don't think exclusively, I think I may have heard -- it becomes a bit jumbled, the memory, but I think I may have heard it during the day. But specifically, we were in a cell block.

BRAHIMI: Freelance photographer Molly Bingham recounted her fears while in captivity.

MOLLY BINGHAM, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER: We didn't know what they were going to with us. And as I said they often, they took us away individually blindfolded. I mean, you have no idea where they're taking you or what they're going to do to you.

And so, you know, absolutely, you know, every other moment of every day, it was like, you know, are they going to -- are they going to kill me or are they just going to ask me more questions? And are the questions going to be something I can answer? Or you know, how is this going to come out?

BRAHIMI: They say they were never formerly charged with anything. They were frequently interrogated, at times even blindfolded.

But "Newsday" correspondent Matthew McAllester acknowledged they may have stretched Iraqi reporting rules at times.

McALLESTER: Did we push the envelope sometimes? Yes. And why? Because this was a story that he and I had thought about, discussed for hours, days. We discussed it with our editors. And we felt that it was our -- it was a personal choice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRAHIMI: For some other correspondents that are still in Baghdad, they're facing new problems. Al Jazeera, we understand the work of one of their correspondents was banned by the Iraqi authorities and another one was expelled from the country. While Al Jazeera has decided to suspend the work of all its correspondents and will now be just airing live pictures from the various places it has satellite trucks, namely, in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra -- Aaron.

BROWN: Rym, thank you very much. Rym Brahimi in Amman, Jordan. Al Jazeera playing a bit of a game of chicken right now with the Iraqi government about whether it's going to report or not.

MURAT VETKIN, "RADIKAL" NEWSPAPER: Safe to say, the trouble with Turkey has been quite a headache for both the American generals and American diplomats. Yesterday we saw soldiers in Kuwait still waiting to get into Iraq. They were supposed to be part of the northern force that came into the country, and that, of course, didn't happen after Turkey's parliament denied the United States access.

Today Secretary of State Powell was in Turkey, sealing a deal to move military equipment and aid into northern Iraq. More on the tension between the two countries from Murat Vetkin, the anchor bureau chief for the "Radikal" newspaper.

Nice to have you with us. Do you think the Turkish government regrets...

VETKIN: Hello.

BROWN: ... regrets -- do you think the Turkish government now regrets not granting the Americans permission to base troops there and enter the north and get all that money?

VETKIN: I think there's -- I think there's a regret from both sides, not only from Turkish side because if there wasn't the regret from Washington, Secretary Powell would not be here to discuss more cooperation to link the opportunities for more cooperations.

So I think if there is a regret, the regret is from both sides. Because the latest money that President Bush has offered to -- or proposed to the Congress was nothing to do with the bargaining here for two months between Turkish and American officials.

Do you think there's any sentiment on the streets in Turkey about the war with Iraq over the last two weeks?

VETKIN: Well, the sentiment is getting stronger against Turkish involvement, direct involvement, into a war. It was already like 90 percent of population in the polls. That was before the rejection of the motion, the government's motion to get involved in the war by the parliament. And now it's getting higher and higher after seeing pictures from Iraq.

BROWN: If the sentiment is against what the Americans are doing in Iraq, why then is the Turkish government allowing over flights? Why is it going to allow this deal that it made with Secretary of State Powell? Why is it doing anything to support American effort?

VETKIN: Because Turkey and America, the United States are close allies for the last 50 years and they have acted together in almost all major events of this region for many times and this is one of them.

And both Turkey's and the United States' long-term strategic interest, political interests, are imposing then to act together to going in arms and arms. That's one of the main reasons why Turkish government is tending to be more cooperative despite, despite the sentiment of the people.

And the sentiment of people I must underline it, is not against the United States, but against the war against those pictures of suffering civilian people. That should be discriminating. I think that should be put clearly.

BROWN: So people in Turkey would not be uncomfortable if it was aid that was coming into Iraq where they would be uncomfortable if it was military supplies that were going into Iraq?

VETKIN: Yes, we can say that. Because, yesterday's permission by the government implies that only logistical support, that's passive support, will be given to the U.S. forces in northern Iraq and those people, civilian people, suffering from the war. Humanitarian assistance and logistical assistance. So that will not harm that much of Turkish people's feelings right now.

Mr. Vetkin, thanks for your time tonight. Murat Vetkin is political observer for Turkish newspaper "Radikal."

Joining us tonight -- Do we have Becky now? Becky Diamond is on the USS Kittyhawk and the Kittyhawk is important tonight because it lost a plane and Becky has more on that -- Becky.

BECKY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Aaron.

It's a somber mood today on the USS Kittyhawk." An FA-18 Hornet is reported missing. That jet did take off on this carrier. About midnight last night we found out the news. There is a search-and- recovery mission -- excuse me, a search and rescue mission underway right now.

We do know that the jet went down somewhere over land in Iraq. We're not sure where. I was told that there were surface to air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery sightings in the vicinity of that aircraft but again, not sure of the conditions of why that jet did go down. I did speak to one FA-18 pilot this morning who said morale is OK. They'll continue with their flight operations. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to fly off of this carrier shortly and in some ways almost the price doing business in this region. Of course, sailors and officers and pilots on this ship are hopeful that they their colleagues -- excuse me -- will be rescued.

This news, Aaron, comes on the heels yesterday of a very joyous day, where two, a pilot and his OIA officer on board an FA-18 combat. They rescued were rescued, were ejected over Iraq. They were rescued in the search and rescue mission. They were brought back on this ship with only minor bruises. And so of course everyone on the Kittyhawk is thankful for the same outcome today -- Aaron. BROWN: Becky, thank you. I know you'll keep reporting on that. The search and rescue operation is under way. They are trying to find the lone pilot. They haven't yet, but they remain hopeful that they will.

We'll take a break. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Al-Jazeera's playing this sort of odd game of chicken with the Iraqi government. That certainly doesn't mean that Arab countries are not getting the story of the war out to them. You're looking on the left-hand side of the screen, the television output of three Arab-language television networks. And the big screen is the city of Baghdad.

And joining us from Cairo is Hussein Amin, he's a professor of journalism, an American university in Cairo to talk about the impact of the war again in the Arab universe.

Good to have you with us. We've seen -- in the last three days, we've seen pictures from Yemen, pictures from Jordan, other places all of young Arab men saying they are going to the front to fight of Jihad against the Americans. How seriously do you think we ought take that?

HUSSEIN AMIN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, it's a very serious matter. Because we see it everywhere. You know, we see it even here in Egypt, but this is very natural because this war, it's perceived as an Anglo-American war. The Americans, I guess, they didn't invite any Muslim or Arab country to be with them in this war, despite what happened in the first Gulf War or even in Afghanistan.

Second, these demonstrations and youngsters are really expressing their feelings, because also they think that this war is an invasion of an Arab and a Muslim country and not a liberation of this country.

BROWN: Is it that...

AMIN: And also, you have to understand...

BROWN: I am sorry...

AMIN: ... that there's a lot of fuss -- go ahead.

BROWN: Sorry. Is it that the -- Is it that the Americans didn't invite Arab countries in or that Arab countries did not want to join this coalition, such as it is?

AMIN: I don't know what happened before. But I think that the U.S. should have exerted more effort if not Arab countries, you know, where is the Iraqi opposition, you know?

We understand that there were a lot of the Iraqi oppositions, thousands, and we don't see them up front fighting for to liberate the countries. You would like to see more and more about the Iraqi opposition fighting to liberate their countries. But what we see is the Americans are really bombarding, you know, the cities, and we see an overflow of pictures of wounded and killed children that is affecting our perception of our public everywhere in this part of the world.

BROWN: President Mubarak, the other day, warned that if the war goes on, there'll be dozens of bin Ladens created. Hyperbole or something, again, that ought to be taken quite seriously?

AMIN: No, actually this is also something that we share with the American president -- with the Egyptian president in this sense. The most important thing that we understand, that this war, when it ends, we see in the short run that it will breed terrors for those, first of all, who lost their family and friends.

So we, I guess, understand that this kind of suicide missions are going to increase and not decrease.

And the Egyptian president, so many times, been calling on to Saddam Hussein to really do something before the war and get rid of this weapon of mass destruction.

And also in the past few days, the American -- the Egyptian president indicated to the Egyptian and Arab public that there are a lot of medical and humanitarian aid are going to go to the Iraqi civilians. This is an addition to his statement about that Egypt is wanting very much to stop the war. And Egypt wanting very much to have peace in the region. This is one thing.

The other thing is, of course, the public is showing a lot of rejection and antagonism since the Palestinian issue has been completely ignored. And on top of this, they see a lot of their Muslim brothers being killed by the Americans and the Brits.

BROWN: Professor, good to talk to you. Thank you for the view from Cairo. Professor Hussein Amin, a professor of journalism at American University.

We will talk with General Clark and more. We need to take a break first. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: I'll bring back General Clark for a couple of minutes here. Perhaps a little bit off point of military strategy. You've been out in the country some, not that perhaps Las Vegas is exactly middle America. But you get a sense that people are -- that the country is still watching every detail of the war or has it settled into a routine?

CLARK: Well, I think there's more a routine now and some people are getting information overload and they've got to go on with their normal lives.

A lot of people who said they're exhaustive of being up every night watching you. A lot of people have told me that. And especially on the east coast.

I was in New York today; I talked to a bunch of people in Chicago, when I passed through there in the airport, and in the aircraft and so forth, and now I'm out here.

But I think there's -- there is remarkably steady support for the war. I think people do see past the bumps, the ups and the downs, to the broader objective and people want to be successful here.

BROWN: Let's talk about sort of what -- what is important about the day that has now transpired? The most important thing that happened in the last 24 hours would have been what?

CLARK: The advance of the 101st, the 3rd Infantry in the Marines toward Baghdad. We didn't get rebuffed; we actually made good progress on the ground, maybe as much as 20 miles in some case. So obviously the air power worked, Saddam couldn't retain his defensive ring around about Baghdad, at least not that ring.

BROWN: Have we answered the question how hard will the Iraqis fight?

CLARK: Not quite clear yet. They obviously put up some pretty good resistance and are still doing so in some of the built-up areas like Basra and Nasiriyah. They're not putting up good resistance around Baghdad.

What we haven't been able to see, Aaron, they haven't been able to see exactly what the defenses were like that the Republican Guards had. And so, therefore, it's hard to judge the fighting quality. Could have been just poor tactics.

And the other thing is, of course, we don't know what our own losses were, and central command has been pretty clear that they're not going to go into losses there. So we know we lost a helicopter. We don't know about the F-18. We had some people killed. It doesn't sound very significant, but we're not positive of that. You'd have to see the inside of it to know the right answer of the question you asked.

BROWN: General Clark, we'll talk to you tomorrow. Thank you, as always. General Wes Clark.

Our coverage, that is to say, my coverage, our coverage ends now. Anderson and Daryn Kagan take you the rest of way and we'll leave you this -- leave with you this. NEWSNIGHT often brings the work of photographers into the program and certainly we have with the war.

Last night we brought you the images from northern Iraq. Today, they come from the south, where the need is great, supplies are short and the photographer in question is Paolo Pellegrin tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAOLO PELLEGRIN, "NEWSWEEK": Paolo Pellegrin. I'm Italian. And I'm in the southern Iraq moving in the region of Basra. I'm so-called a unilateral. I'm working for "Newsweek" -- "Newsweek" magazine and I'm also part of "Magnum" -- "Magnum Photos."

Definitely the border town right along the militarized zone. It's the border between Iraq and Kuwait. I was there four or five days ago when the first two trucks of the humanitarian aid came in. And there was quite a scene where people would just run and grab whatever they could.

The aid was just coming so far and more like the drop. And the need for food and water and aid and medicines, is so much bigger. At the same time, it was quite scary, because they were taking all this food and all this aid and at the same time chanting sort of pro-Saddam songs or chants.

For several days in a row, I basically drove to the outskirts of Basra. The more you approach the city, the darker the sky becomes. At one point it was just covered in columns of black smoke coming from the city. Biblical scenes of thousands of people fleeing and falling down from exhaustion and, again, lack of water, lack of food. Especially water. The water seems to be an enormous problem.

There's a tank battle and artillery exchanges going on most of the time. In all this, the people fleeing. I think they're probably for a nearby village or town, where presumably, they have some relative or family. They are leaving with just their clothes on, and I suspect the hope is that the situation will not last like this for very long. And they'll be able to return soon.

There's others who try to reenter the city to look for relatives or to bring in some food, so it's quite chaotic.

We are witnesses of this conflict and of this situation and the stories that are part of this conflict. Myself and others are in a position to tell those stories. I think this is important and this is why I am here and what I try to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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